Justice for Darfur: An International Affair

July 19, 2008 Updated: March 2, 2012
 (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)
(Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations is reportedly withdrawing staff in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan after an international prosecutor accused Sudan’s president of genocide.

While Darfur activists welcome action by the International Criminal Court (ICC), they warn against withdrawing UN forces, saying that it would set a dangerous precedent and it was important for the forces to stay.

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said last month that Sudan’s “entire state apparatus” was implicated in a campaign to attack civilians in Darfur, Reuters reported. He said he would present ICC judges with evidence implicating senior Sudanese officials in July.

Last week, it was reported that the prosecutor was seeking an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Particularly damning evidence against the Sudanese Government has also surfaced with revelations from a senior Janjaweed commander that he and his forces were specifically recruited by the Government to mount a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing against black southerners.

In a filmed interview with a British journalist, Mr Arbab Idries, a key Janjaweed commander between 2003 and 2007, told how he was instructed by a senior Sudanese Government figure to recruit Islamic Arabic speakers from the north of Sudan. The London Daily Telegraph reported descriptions of how he slaughtered Darfuri civilians – black men, women and children – looted villages, poured sand in their wells and cut down their trees.

“We wanted to force the population out of their areas and give them no chance to live there again. These instructions came from Khartoum,” he is reported to have said in the film.

A Sudanese refugee child from Darfur peers from a hole in his shelter at the Farchana refugee camp that has more than 20,000 Darfur refugees in June 2008. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)
A Sudanese refugee child from Darfur peers from a hole in his shelter at the Farchana refugee camp that has more than 20,000 Darfur refugees in June 2008. (Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images)
Mr Alpha Lisimba, vice-president of the Darfur Australian Network (DAN), said the Janjaweed, under the direction of the Sudanese Government, were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Darfurians and the displacement of over four million people.

“They have been paid by the Sudanese Government to kill them, the African inhabitants of Darfur, and they have been doing this for five years,” he told The Epoch Times.

Mr Idries’s moves, he said, were an indication that the threat of ICC action was having an effect.

“The feeling is that justice is to finally be done for the people of Darfur,” he said. “That is why the chief of the Janjaweed is fleeing. He knows the Sudanese Government is involved and he himself is a criminal.”
In a veiled threat, Sudanese authorities have said any move against Sudanese authorities in the court will undermine the peace process.

UN co-ordinators, shaken after an attack that killed 7 and injured 22 UN and African Union (Unamid) peacekeepers, have started to remove non-essential staff out of Sudan to neighbouring regions, the BBC reported.

Mr Lisimba, however, has warned that moving peacekeepers out of the country would play into the hands of the Sudanese Government who are keen to link any action in the ICC to access within Darfur for aid workers and peacekeepers.

“Let me say, the issue of the UN troops, the issue of the aid workers, is different from the issue of the Criminal Court because the ICC is trying to bring justice for the people of Darfur.”

“The Sudanese Government saying that it will attack the peacekeepers and the aid workers in Darfur, that is a violation of the principles of the United Nations,” he said.

Mr Lisimba said China should also be held accountable for its role in the crisis. Referring to a recent BBC Panorama report that indicated China was flouting the 2005 UN arms embargo against Sudan, he said: “The Chinese Government is the main economic partner of Sudan; they financially support Sudan and China is also supporting the military.”

“Also, China is blocking the way for the International Security Council to hold Sudan accountable for the crimes of genocide in Darfur,” he said.

“We also say China is implicated in crimes against humanity in Darfur.”