Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by Enough Project Intern Zak Mitiche.
On June 23 the Senate Human Rights Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Chris Coons and the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court (WICC) hosted a special congressional briefing titled “The Crisis in Sudan: Prospects for Justice and Peace.”
Panelists included Omer Ismail, Senior Advisor to the Enough Project, Raymond Brown, co-founder of the International Justice Project and a Darfur victims representative at the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Jana Ramsey, with the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. Department of State. The event was moderated by Dan Sullivan, Director of Policy and Government Relations at United to End Genocide.
Opening to a packed audience of almost 100 congressional staff, interns, and civil society members, Mr. Sullivan recognized the panel’s timeliness following the dramatic developments surrounding the Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir’s recent travel to South Africa.
The panel began by describing the current situation in Sudan. The Enough Project’s Omer Ismail described a grim situation on the ground: a stalled peace process, Janjaweed militias rebranded as Rapid Support Forces attacking civilians with impunity, and bombs being dropped in the Nuba mountains and in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Raymond, calling Sudan the “forgotten genocide,” added that the international community has been weak regarding Sudan, which he characterized as a “kleptocratic regime that thinks mass atrocity is a form of policy.”
Additional steps for peace in Sudan were proposed as well. Ismail called for U.S. government pressure on the African Union to implement a comprehensive peace strategy. He also stressed that the United Nations must renew its peacekeeping force in Darfur – UNAMID – with a more robust implementation plan. Despite this, UNAMID’s human rights report was lauded by the State Department for being “useful and helpful,” and an important part of the solution in Sudan. Ramsey stressed that while the United States will maintain its robust targeted sanctions programs with Sudan, humanitarian aid must continue and a humanitarian ceasefire should be implemented. Brown, who represents victims from Darfur at the ICC, added that it was unfortunate that more victims had not been summoned to the international court to testify and share their stories.
The panelists also addressed al-Bashir’s recent trip to South Africa. The general sentiment was one of support for the ICC and a call for South Africa to respect the warrant for his arrest. The panel made it clear that South Africa’s inaction was a “blow to the upholding of rule of law” and a compromise of South Africa’s constitution, especially after the government denied its own courts following consultation with The Hague. Panelists discussed the role of the U.S. government in addressing the South African and regional governments. Opinions were divided; Ismail insisted that much more ought to have been done using the United States’ untapped leverage in the region as the official response was delayed and had no effect on events on the ground. While agreeing that the public response was delayed, Ramsey countered that the message to South Africa was clear and timely: al- Bashir can no longer be allowed to act with impunity.