UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Reuters) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court slammed the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for failing to take action against Sudan’s government and to push for the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and others on charges of war crimes in Darfur.
“Close to ten years since the much lauded council’s referral of the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court, systematic and widespread crimes continue to be committed with total impunity in Darfur,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.
“Time is long overdue for the government of Sudan’s consistent defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions to be matched by this council’s decisive action,” Bensouda told the council - the 19th such briefing on the western Darfur region.
Action by the 15-member Security Council is seen as unlikely as veto-wielding member China traditionally acts as Khartoum’s protector. China abstained on the council vote in 2005 that authorized the ICC to investigate Darfur, but has said it has “serious reservations” about the charges against Bashir.
“China has not changed its position on the ICC in regard to Darfur,” China’s U.N. diplomat Cai Weiming told the council.
British U.N. diplomat Paul McKell said it was a “poor reflection” on the Security Council that it had been unable to act. “We must do more to follow up on the referral to the ICC,” he told the council.
The Hague-based court indicted Bashir in 2009 and has also charged Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, former Interior Minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb with war crimes in Darfur.
“The reality is that the ICC’s judicial process cannot take place without arrests. Darfur suspects remain at large and no meaningful steps have been taken to apprehend them and bring them to justice,” Bensouda said.
“It is indeed an understatement to say that we have failed the Darfur victims who continue to bear the brunt of these crimes,” she said. “What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council’s approach to arresting Darfur suspects.”
According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have been killed and two million others displaced during the 11-year conflict between the government and rebels in Darfur, 800 km west of the capital, Khartoum.
The Sudanese government puts the toll at 10,000.
A joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission has been deployed in Darfur since 2007.
Bensouda also called for an independent and public inquiry into allegations that the peacekeeping mission has been “subject to manipulation, with the intentional effect of covering up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers, in particular those committed by the government of Sudan.” (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)