June 17, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to investigate reports that the UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID) deliberately contributed in covering up crimes in the restive region.
- Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), addresses the Security Council’s meeting on Darfur December 13, 2012 (UN Photo)
In reference to US-based Foreign Policy (FP) magazine reports, Bensouda asked the council to authorize a “thorough, independent and public inquiry” probe into allegations that UNAMID being subject to “manipulation” through acts committed "with the intentional effect of covering up crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers”.
FP obtained confidential internal UN memos from UNAMID ex-spokesperson Aicha ElBasri that asserts how the UN peacekeeping force suppressed negative information on violations that occurred in Darfur by Sudanese government and other parties.
The ICC prosecutor said that the responsibility for the “cover-up” may lie “with a handful of individuals” but warned that it undermines the credibility of the peacekeeping mission.
"UN reports are an important and increasingly unique source of public information about the situation in Darfur, and must be held to the highest standard for the sake of the victims in Darfur” she said.
“Victims in Darfur and the peacekeepers who have sacrificed their lives deserve better. We all do,” Bensouda added.
Some members of the council expressed support for a formal query while others expressed concern without backing it.
The Australian deputy Permanent Representative Philippa King stressed that “accurate information is obviously essential to future accountability processes and to ensure informed Council deliberations”.
“This includes information from UNAMID, of course, so we therefore support the Prosecutor’s call for a thorough, independent and transparent inquiry into allegations that information about crimes committed against civilians and peacekeepers may have been withheld” King said.
The Rwandan deputy UN ambassador Oliver Nduhungirehe expressed hope that UNAMID and DPKO “will provide clarification” on these allegations.
The UK said it welcomed the UNAMID strategic review of last February and looking forward to its full implementation but did not back the inquiry call.
The United States, the largest financial contributor to UNAMID, made no mention of the allegations nor expressed a position on the probe call.
UNAMID deployed to Sudan’s western Darfur region in 2008 as the largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation in the world, employing more than 25,000 military, police and civilian staff.
The agency’s core mandate is to provide protection to Darfuri civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Over 16,000 UNAMID peacekeepers are currently based in Darfur, where conflict broke in 2003 after mostly non-Arab fighters took up arms against the Sudanese government.