Over the past 20 years, the Darfur region of Sudan has experienced repeated cycles of violence. In 2003, the forces of then-president Omar Al Bashir launched a campaign against non-Arab citizens of Darfur.
The UN estimates that the violence killed 300,000 civilians and displaced more than two million others. This campaign was carried out by the Sudanese government together with their allied Janjaweed militiamen, known as ‘devils on horseback’. Despite multiple attempts at ceasefire and peace, human rights abuses in Darfur have continued unabated. The near-total impunity for atrocity crimes in Darfur is a major driver of ongoing conflict and continues to embolden armed actors.
In April 2023, against the backdrop of Sudan’s fragile transition to civilian rule, the latest bout of violence erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), rival factions of the Sudanese military. Darfur is one of the most conflict-affected regions in the country.
The conflict has exacerbated pre-existing ethnic tensions and violent struggles for resources. Alarming reports from Darfur suggest that victims are being murdered along ethnic lines and buried in mass graves, having been denied decent burials.
In September 2021, CFJ Co-Founder Ms. Amal Clooney was appointed Special Adviser on Darfur to the Office of the Prosecutor – the first and only situation-based special adviser appointment in the Court’s history.
In this role, she provides strategic support to the Prosecutor for all Darfur-related matters: the ongoing case against Ali Kushayb, the investigations into the remaining Darfur suspects, including former President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, and the evaluation of the current situation and ongoing commission of mass atrocities. She is supported by a team of lawyers at The Docket.
The Docket’s role involves supporting the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor with its investigation into the Darfur atrocities. In his July 2023 address to the Security Council, the Prosecutor announced the expansion of the ICC’s investigation to include crimes spanning to the present day. The Docket lends its expertise to compile evidence of crimes spanning this twenty-year period to secure accountability for victims of international crimes committed in Darfur.
In 2020-2021, Ms. Clooney represented 126 Darfuri victims of Kushayb’s alleged crimes, acting as their appointed Legal Representative before the ICC.
Lawyers from The Docket served as co-counsel and were integral in conducting outreach to victims in Darfur. Together, they worked to present the views of participating victims during pre-trial hearings.
Under the Rome Statute, victims of the world’s most serious crimes have the right to participate in proceedings at the ICC. Victims participate by conveying their views and concerns to judges, which normally happens through a legal representative.
There are other ways for victims to play a role in ICC proceedings like submitting information to the Court about crimes they believe have been committed, or, during a trial, a victim may testify before the ICC.
If a case proceeds to trial and an accused person is convicted, victims may ask the ICC to make an order of reparations.
In July 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber II unanimously confirmed all the charges brought by the Prosecutor against Ali Kushayb and committed him to trial. The participation of both Ms. Clooney and The Docket at the pre-trial stage was crucial in upholding the right of victims to have their voices heard in Court proceedings, and in advancing efforts for accountability in Sudan.