Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Madam Prosecutor, for your briefing. We agree with you that victims in Darfur need justice.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Darfur, more than 300,000 people have been killed and 4.7 million others have been affected, including more than 2 million people who were, and remain, internally displaced. In the past, both Sudanese government forces and their allied militias have engaged in widespread and systematic killing, raping, and torturing of civilians. Perpetrators have burned villages and have blocked humanitarian aid from reaching populations in desperate need. Some rebel groups have conducted similar brutal attacks.
More than 12 years ago, this Council – alarmed by the atrocities taking place in Darfur – referred the situation to the International Criminal Court in order to bring to justice those responsible for such atrocities and to end the climate of impunity in Sudan. The United States has continued efforts to help end the conflict and improve conditions for the people of Darfur. This focus on the safety and security of Darfuri civilians was a key component of the Five-Track Engagement Plan, a framework launched in June 2016 under which the U.S. government offered to Sudan the revocation of certain economic sanctions if Sudan made progress in a number of areas. Under this process, we asked Sudan to maintain a cessation of hostilities in internal conflict areas such as Darfur and to improve humanitarian access.
We note that in 2017, the Government of Sudan has refrained from military offensives and stopped aerial bombardments in Darfur and that it has taken meaningful steps to expand humanitarian access. The armed opposition in Darfur, with the exception of one party, also reciprocated by announcing its own unilateral cessations of hostilities. However, much more progress is needed.
While Darfur has not experienced the same levels of violence in 2017 as in years past, lasting peace remains elusive, the human rights situation continues to be volatile, humanitarian needs remain high, and accountability remains nonexistent. Those responsible for human rights violations and abuses and attacks on civilians should be held accountable, including security forces using excessive force against civilians, such as in Kalma camp in September 2017, or members of armed militias who perpetrate atrocities against civilians in Darfur. We note in November 2017, the arrest by the Sudanese government of former Janjaweed commander, Musa Hilal, who is subject to UN sanctions for his commission of atrocities in Darfur, following clashes between the Sudanese security forces and armed militia loyal to Hilal.
We are concerned about reports of civilian fatalities, including the killing of women and children, that occurred during these clashes. We call on the Sudanese government to allow the UN, humanitarian organizations, and the media to access the area where the clashes took place so they can investigate the reports and provide assistance to those in need.
We also call on the government to investigate promptly and credibly any allegations against Hilal, in accordance with Sudan’s human rights commitments and obligations, and to hold Hilal to account if he is found to have committed atrocities.
We note that the International Criminal Court has investigated allegations of atrocities committed by all sides and charged Sudanese government officials, militia leaders, and certain armed opposition members for crimes, including genocide; the crimes against humanity of torture, murder, and rape; and war crimes, including pillaging and deliberate attacks on peacekeepers.
We have noted for many years that it is unacceptable that the suspects in the Darfur situation remain at large and have not been brought to justice. In particular, we have expressed disappointment that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir continues to travel to countries around the world. Receiving President Bashir on these visits has served only to burnish his image, diminish the seriousness of the charges against him, and dismiss the tremendous suffering of the victims. We must stand with the victims, no matter how powerful those who inflict abuses on them might be.
Other leaders who have targeted their own citizens – including former Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo, former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – have been called to answer for their alleged crimes. Moving forward, we will continue to use the tools at our disposal to press Sudan to improve its human rights practices and to promote justice for the people of Darfur.
A Sudan that adheres to the rule of law, respects human rights, and breaks the cycle of impunity is one that will enjoy a sustainable peace and prosperity. We look forward to the day when Sudan is a valued contributor to regional security and stability.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not reiterate the U.S. position with respect to recent developments related to the situation in Afghanistan, which is different from this situation in a number of respects. As we said in this Council in November, and as we reiterated at the Assembly of States Parties meeting last week, we continue to have serious concerns about, and a longstanding, principled objection to, any ICC investigation or other activity concerning U.S. personnel.
Thank you, Mr. President.