On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted establishing the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC). This historic event paved the way for the long-awaited implementation of universal justice on a global scale.
The ICC investigates the most serious crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, and pursues the highest-ranking decision makers responsible for them. However, it does not have its own police force to arrest suspects and must rely on the good will of the governments in question to hand over the suspects it seeks.
In June 2005, the ICC prosecutor opened an investigation into the situation in Darfur, the region in western Sudan ravaged by a deadly conflict in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have died and terrible atrocities have been committed.
On 27 February 2007, following a year and a half of investigations, the ICC produced evidence against two Sudanese suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. On 27 April, two arrest warrants were issued against the Sudanese government’s current minister of state for humanitarian affairs, Ahmad Harun, and the leader of the armed militia (jangawid) Ali Kushayb. They must both answer to a total of 51 charges, in particular for acts of persecution, murder, torture, pillage, attacks on the civilian population, rape, and forcible transfer, committed between August 2003 and March 2004.
The arrest warrant against the minister Ahmad Harun is of particular importance, since it is the first time that a serving government representative has been charged by the ICC and it also bears witness to the existence of links between the government and the janjawid armed militia, which the Sudanese authorities continue to deny.
Until now, no prosecutor, either in the Sudan or elsewhere, had really attempted to investigate crimes committed in Darfur and initiate proceedings against those responsible. The international community is facing an immense challenge if it wants the hundreds of people who have perpetrated these atrocities and continue to do so with total impunity to be brought to justice and the millions of victims and their families to one day receive compensation.
However, Sudan categorically refuses to hand over the suspects to the ICC and if they cannot be brought to court, the victims may be deprived of justice for a long time to come.
Given that postal connections with Sudan have become very unreliable, we would ask you on this occasion to address your letters to the Sudanese Ambassador to Brussels, who will pass on your appeals to his country’s authorities.