International Law, Testing the Limits: The ICC and Darfur

Ethnic groups living in Darfur, a territory in the southwest region of Sudan, have competed for essential resources (e.g., land and water) for centuries. These primarily agrarian tribes felt marginalized by the central government in Khartoum, especially since the military coup in 1989. This coup, led by Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, favored Sudanese Arabs over Sudanese Africans and has ignored the basic needs of many of the people living in Darfur. This conflict reached a new level, however, when rebels representing the three main African ethnic groups in the region (Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa) attacked a government air force base in 2003. Khartoum responded to the rebels’ attack by not only targeting members of the rebel groups but also by attacking Darfuris belonging to the tribes associated with the rebels (Fur, Massalit, and Zaghawa). International observers, journalists, and human rights organizations report that the Janjaweed and Sudan’s own army are responsible for horrific war crimes: the raping of women is widespread; innocent civilians, especially men, have been killed en masse; children have been kidnapped; wells have been poisoned and villages have been burned. (To learn more about the genocide in Darfur, see the Darfur and Southern Sudan page on the Enough Project’s website.)

In recent years, charges of genocide have been leveled against the government of Sudan for violent attacks on Darfuris. In 2005, the United Nations Security Council asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate these charges. The 13-minute film module, International Law, Testing the Limits: The ICC and Darfur (below), tells the story of the ICC’s investigation in Darfur led by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor for the ICC.

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