Letter to Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok
STAND FOR JUSTICE IN DARFUR AND ACROSS SUDAN
Dear Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok,
In commemoration of this month’s International Justice Day, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) and the undersigned write to express our grave concern regarding the continued impunity enjoyed by the former president of the Republic of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, and two other Sudanese officials indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ahmad Muhammad Harun (Ahmed Harun) and Abdel Raheem Muhammed Hussein (Hussein). July 2020 marks ten years since the second arrest warrant for Bashir and his allies was issued for the crimes of genocide. As we celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the 1998 Rome Statute that established the ICC and other institutions designed by the international community to secure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators of the most serious crimes, we are sobered by Bashir’s decade-long evasion of justice and continued impunity.
The longstanding injustices in Sudan have created historical grievances and devastated the lives of millions of citizens. These grievances must be addressed for Sudan to move forward as a nation. There has never been a better time to pursue justice for the victims. The interim period has provided a unique opportunity that your government must seize to establish a foundation for equal rights and a respect for the human dignity of all in Sudan.
Al-Bashir stands accused of the world’s most serious crimes – genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity perpetrated. His genocide against indigenous Africans in Darfur has caused communities to suffer trauma for 18 years, as well as face endless plagues of torture, plunder, pillaging, and systematic rape as a weapon of war. This violence has displaced over 4 million Darfuris. Survivors’ calls for peace, security, and justice have fallen on deaf years for nearly two decades, up until this very day.
DWAG wishes to remind you and the members of the Sovereign Council that years of continued impunity for the perpetrators constitutes an affront to justice and international law, an erasure of the atrocities that victims have suffered, and an undermining of the magnitude of gross rights violations that survivors still face. Your government’s refusal to surrender Bashir and his allies to face trial in the Hague not only demonstrates a clear lack of commitment to protect the countless victims of his thirty years of bloody rule but also shows other perpetrators that they can continue to commit crimes and escape without consequences in the future. Such refusal would signal to the world that the interim government is protecting a criminal while denying its own citizens their right to justice.
Sustained Violence in Recent Weeks
DWAG and the undersigned aim to emphasize the urgent need for your government to address the recent attacks in Darfur and its camps with effective action, not just words. Sudanese civilian, refugee and internally displaced communities continue to live in fear as they fall pretty to the Rapid Support Forces, the affiliated Janjaweed militia, and other agents of unrest. From July 5th onwards, peaceful demonstrations demanding justice for civilians killed in last year’s uprising have only been met with more violence and murder sanctioned by forces tied to the transitional government, its military, and its police forces. Of most recent concern, however, was the deadly massacre in Misterei, West Darfur that took place on July 25th. At least 68 innocent civilians were killed and 84 others were severely wounded in this attack – the second incident to have occurred in Misterei within a week’s time.
Other frightening attacks include one on June 30th in Kabkabiya, North Darfur. Police opened fire to disperse protestors, wounding 8 people, including two children aged 12, and killing two who were shot in the head by stray bullets. On July 13th, nine protestors were killed and dozens more wounded as armed militiamen attacked a peaceful sit-in at Fata Borno camp in North Darfur. On July 19th, a shooting occurred in El Geneina, West Darfur, resulting in three people killed and multiple wounded. July 23rd featured two separate attacks – one in Nierteti, Central Darfur and another in Gereida, South Darfur, leaving 16 civilians dead in total. DWAG is severely concerned about how this worrying series of recent attacks mirrors a pattern of systematic atrocities committed at the peak of the Darfur Genocide. Progress toward civilian protection has yet to be seen in Darfur and other conflict-affected areas of Sudan.
These atrocities, extending even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, are testimonies to the effects of ongoing impunity in Sudan. The lack of enforcement of the ICC warrants for Bashir and his allies and their resulting freedom from international scrutiny has set a grave precedent. Normalizing the lack of consequences for criminal actions has encouraged certain actors within the current transitional government. It has incentivized them to replicate the same tactics of violence as previously used by Bashir to consolidate power in Sudan.
You have reassured protestors that their demands for justice and improved security are legitimate and that measures will be taken in response. Your words have only resulted in the deployment of the Sudanese Armed Forces to Darfur, garnering even less trust among local residents than before. Likewise, after months of the transitional government insisting that Bashir will be tried domestically rather than being delivered to The Hague, you reaffirmed your commitment to cooperating with the ICC in mid-February of this year. This statement has also failed to produce any corresponding action despite the fact that the Sudanese legal system, in its current capacity, cannot guarantee witness protection and deliver fair justice. Cooperating with the ICC is the most viable option in prosecuting the crimes committed in Darfur. For those who have suffered the most, empty promises by the Interim Government of Sudan will only continue to cost more lives.
Impunity Must End
July 12th marks the 10th anniversary of the second arrest warrant for al-Bashir and July 17th marks International Justice Day, which commemorates the establishment of the ICC. DWAG would therefore like to take this opportunity to demand the following from you and your government:
Fulfill your duty as a leader to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights by unconditionally transferring Omar al-Bahir, Ahmed Haroun, and Abdulrahim Hussein to the Hague to face trial
Open unhindered access to the ICC to continue its investigation and provide support for the Sudanese legal system to live up to an equivalent international standard that will grant adequate justice for all Sudanese without prejudice in the future.
Issue a public decision denouncing the continued attacks in Darfur and other areas and hold perpetrators of these attacks responsible for their actions.
Incorporate all international human rights, international justice and humanitarian laws within Sudanese domestic laws to bring Sudanese institutions up to a legal standard that can protect and restore the dignity of all Sudanese people.
DWAG stresses the importance of ending impunity for Omar al-Bashir, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein. During this time of transition, it is incredibly important that a precedent is set for the protection of human rights and respect for the global rule of law. In order for long-lasting peace and justice to take hold, the interim government must actively listen to the demands from all members of the affected communities, in different regions of the country, with a particular emphasis on the needs of the victims of al-Bashir and his cronies. Reigning impunity continues to embolden local militias, allowing violence to continue. Securing justice for past crimes committed must remain on the forefront of the priorities for this administration as it moves forward in establishing peace and security in the country. On this International Justice Day, it is more important now than ever to demonstrate a commitment to upholding the rule of law and finding those responsible for the genocide accountable.
Ten years of impunity is too long. We demand that the interim government deliver justice in the name of the countless victims of Bashir and his henchmen. Sudanese citizens in Darfur and across the Sudan have paid the highest price for change in Sudan and we have patiently waited for justice. It is extremely disappointing to see their plights being ignored and their right to justice being denied. We passionately believe that without justice Sudan will not be at peace, and without peace there will be neither transformation nor democracy. It is imperative that the interim government make justice a priority and lead a transition that will meet the aspirations of all Sudanese.
Niemat Ahmadi, Founder and President, Darfur Women Action Group, Washington, D.C.