UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court accused the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday of prolonging the conflict in Darfur by its failure to take action to arrest Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and others accused of war crimes.
Fatou Bensouda said the council's inaction and paralysis in the face of increasing violence against civilians has emboldened al-Bashir to ignore council resolutions and left victims with no hope for justice.
Darfur has been gripped by bloodshed since 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.
The Security Council referred the Darfur conflict to the International Criminal Court in 2005, but has failed to pressure the government to arrest al-Bashir and others accused of war crimes. U.N. diplomats say China, a major buyer of oil from Sudan, has blocked council action.
Bensouda minced no words in excoriating the council, saying "it is a serious indictment on this council" and on parties to the Rome statute that established the world's permanent war crimes tribunal that al-Bashir and Defense Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, also wanted for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, "have been able to travel to various countries without fear of arrest."
"This council's silence even when notified of clear failures and/or violations by U.N. member states of their obligations to comply with this council's resolutions only serves to add insult to the plight of Darfur's victims," she said.
Bensouda told the council that in the past 10 years, the Darfur conflict has cost the U.N. and humanitarian aid organizations more than $10.5 billion as well as the lives of 47 aid workers and 57 peacekeepers. This year alone, she said, 460,000 people have been newly displaced in Darfur.
"The numbers of people killed, abducted and displaced continues to grow each year," Bensouda said.
"Alleged perpetrators of serious crimes against the civilian population will continue to commit crimes unless they are brought to justice," she said. "It is now up to this council and to the states parties to heed the cries of the millions of victims of crimes which continue unabated in Darfur."
Al-Bashir has traveled extensively since he was indicted in 2009 and again in 2010 for crimes including genocide and extermination in Darfur. Other Sudanese who face ICC arrest warrants include militia leader Ali Kushayb, Governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Harun and defense minister Hussein.
Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman told the council Sudan is not a party to the Rome statute and criticized Bensouda's statement, saying: "It is authoritative, as if giving instructions to the Security Council." He said Sudan has established its own special court for issues related to the Darfur conflict and its prosecutor is considering 57 cases.
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current council president, said when asked why the council didn't respond to Bensouda's sharp criticism: "We are ready to move forward, but the council is blocked, by some countries."
Bensouda said she thought some council members "have accepted that it's not helpful my reporting here without taking action."
Associated Press writer Cara Anna contrikbuted to this story from the United Nations.