Monday, 13 December 2010

More Hyperbole from the Prosecutor

Last week, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court made his bi-annual report to the Security Council. He spoke of ‘an ongoing genocide by rape and fear’. According to the Press Release issued by the United Nations: ‘”Rape and fear are silent weapons, below the radar of the peacekeeping forces”, he said, pointing out that sexual violence continued, generally committed by men in military uniform, according to the Secretary-General’s report of 14 July.’
I’m not sure what report is being referred to. Perhaps a reader of the blog can assist. There is a report of the Secretary-General from 14 July2009 on Sudan, but it doesn’t seem to speak of rape or sexual violence. And it seems odd that he would be referring to a report from 209. This year there was a report dated 19 July (S/2010/388), but it too doesn’t seem relevant.
Here is the account from Agence France Press:
‘The situation in Darfur is not just a humanitarian crisis, it is a systematic attack against the civilian population. The situation in Darfur is a genocide, it is an ongoing genocide’, Ocampo said. The prosecutor said hundreds more civilians have been killed and thousands displaced in the western Sudan region in the last six months. The people of Darfur ‘are suffering a subtle form of genocide -- genocide of rape and fear. Rape and fear are a silent weapon, below the radar of the peacekeepers, unstoppable for the humanitarian organizations, and this continues’, Ocampo said.
Is he speaking about the same Darfur that we read about in United Nations reports? The latest report of the Secretary-General on Sudan, is dated 14 October 2010 (S/2010/528). It says nothing about rape, sexual violence or genocide. It has three paragraphs about Darfur, entitled ‘Darfur Peace Process’. One looks in vain for the dire situation that the Prosecutor spoke about in the Security Council. The earlier report, of 19 July 2010, is similar in tone. It does mention the word genocide, but only because it notes the issuance of the arrest warrant by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court.
Since early 2009, the joint African Union-United Nations chief mediator for Darfur has been convening talks in Doha, between the Government of the Sudan and Darfur rebel groups in an effort to reach a political settlement for the Darfur conflict. Some of the rebel movements, including the Abdul Wahid (AW) faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) have refused to participate in the peace process, and the African Union-United Nations mediation team has been making substantive efforts to unify a number of splintered rebel factions in preparation for new negotiations. As a result of the lack of readiness of the armed movements to engage fully in the process and their lack of capacity to represent the interests of all Darfurians, the mediation has also focused on enhancing civil society participation in the process. In November 2009, the mediation organized a series of meetings in Doha between the armed movements and Darfurian civil society in an effort to better represent the voices of all Darfurians in the peace process…’ 
This doesn’t sound like genocide.
At paragraph 51, the Independent expert says ‘the Government has been actively promoting an agenda of permanent return… Some displaced persons have complained about being subjected to undue pressure from various armed factions and government officials to return to insecure areas. Some also reported that their lands have been occupied by mostly Arab nomads and militia groups, which enjoy Government support and protection.
Paragraph 60 and 61 speak directly to the issue of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
60. In spite of the lack of reliable data on sexual violence in Darfur, it is generally acknowledged that reported cases have decreased. In 2009, 101 reported cases of sexual violence were recorded by UNAMID (49 in North Darfur, 25 in South Darfur and 27 in West Darfur). The decrease in reported incidents of rape is not necessarily an indication of a decrease in the commission of the crime, but might simply be the result of underreporting, as explained by some stakeholders.
61. In spite of the above-mentioned drawbacks, there were some positive developments in combating gender-based violence, including an increasing awareness among some judicial officers of the seriousness of sexual violence crimes and their effect on the victims. In December 2009, a judge in Zalingei sentenced two military police officers to 10 years of imprisonment each and 100 lashes for the gang rape of a 50 year old woman. The judge stated that he was applying the maximum sentence as a deterrent to other policemen.
At some point in the past, the Prosecutor may have an arguable case for using the word genocide, but surely not today. What purpose is served by speaking about an ‘ongoing genocide’ when manifestly this is not what is happening? Wouldn’t the Prosecutor be wiser to claim that the genocide is no longer ongoing, and then take credit for this, saying it is a consequence of the deterrent effect of his work on behalf of the International Criminal Court?

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