As her historic tenure comes to a close, Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) would like to extend its gratitude to International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for her tireless and comprehensive work in the pursuit of justice. We are particularly grateful to Ms. Bensouda for advancing investigations of sexual and gender-based crimes to secure justice for survivors and for her dedicated work on the Darfur proceedings.
Prosecutor Bensouda assumed office as ICC Chief Prosecutor in June 2012. From the beginning of her nine-year term, Prosecutor Bensouda committed the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to enhancing the effectiveness of the prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes. In June 2014, Prosecutor Bensouda launched the landmark Policy on Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes, in which she expanded the ability of the Office to obtain the evidence required to secure convictions for sexual and gender-based crimes. As a result, the OTP adopted a gender perspective analysis in order to fully understand the role of gender and gendered experiences of individuals and communities involved in a particular crime scenario. The policy also was a significant contribution to international criminal law as it included an extensive list of sexual and gender-based crimes to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the Court. The development of this policy has allowed survivors of sexual and gender-based crimes to seek justice when their domestic options are limited, a mechanism that is essential to survivors around the world, including in Darfur.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred the Darfur situation to the ICC in March 2005, which resulted in the ICC issuing three indictments, but due to lack of cooperation, limited progress was made. Despite the numerous challenges that Prosecutor Bensouda faced and
many actors around the world forgetting about Darfur, she showed resilience and stood in solidarity with its people by ensuring the Court remained committed to ensuring that justice would prevail for survivors of the atrocities in Darfur. Prosecutor Bensouda continued to appeal to the UNSC for help with the investigations in Darfur and called upon the Assembly of State Parties to allocate sufficient resources for Darfur investigations.
Prosecutor Bensouda made her first visit to Khartoum in October 2020. During this visit, Prosecutor Bensouda emphasized the necessity of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the OTP and the interim government of Sudan. In February 2021, the interim government signed the MoU, allowing the OTP to deploy an investigation team to collect evidence that could lead to the prosecution of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman known as Ali Kushayb. DWAG once again commends Prosecutor Bensouda on her commitment to fighting alongside the people of Darfur, which culminated in the Ali Kushayb confirmation of charges hearing in May.
During the last days of her term, Prosecutor Bensouda visited Sudan, traveling across the country to meet with the interim government and to call for the genocide perpetrators to be transferred to ICC custody to be tried. She also traveled to Darfur and met with internally displaced persons (IDPs) and victims of the genocide. Upon her arrival at Kalma camp, she was met with cheering and chanting in support of the Court and for the transfer and prosecution of all Sudanese ICC indictees. In her final statement to the UNSC on the Court’s progress on the situation in Darfur, Prosecutor Bensouda said her trip was “a strong reminder that we should
stay focused on achieving justice for the victims and finding lasting peace for the people of Darfur.” DWAG strongly supports Prosecutor Bensouda’s remarks to ensure full accountability of the perpetrators and restore justice for the people of Darfur.
DWAG expresses our team’s sincere gratitude for Prosecutor Bensouda’s unrelenting work for the people of Darfur and victims of sexual violence in her nine year term. We would also like to thank the Prosecutor for her continued collaboration with our organization, actions that prove her commitment to lifting up the voices of those who suffer through the world’s worst crimes. DWAG urges her successor, Mr. Karim Khan, to continue her efforts to hold the perpetrators of the Darfur genocide accountable by securing direct and full participation of the victims and
continuing to advocate for the transfer of all of the indicted officials from the Bashir regime. We remain confident, however, that Prosecutor Bensouda’s legacy and impact on the international mechanisms for justice will live on with the Court far beyond her tenure.