Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Special Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
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Sudanese refugees who have fled from the war in Sudan get off a truck loaded with families arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. More than 550,000 people have now fled from the war in Sudan to South Sudan since the conflict exploded in April 2023, according to the United Nations. (AFP/File)
Special Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
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Sudanese refugees who have fled from the war in Sudan get off a truck loaded with families arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. More than 550,000 people have now fled from the war in Sudan to South Sudan since the conflict exploded in April 2023, according to the United Nations. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
  • International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is ‘concerned by the ethnically motivated nature’ of the conflict
  • Fourteen months into the conflict, legal experts have criticized the court’s belated appeal for evidence of atrocities

LONDON: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has appealed for evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.”

However, legal experts who spoke to Arab News have accused the ICC of dragging its feet on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and of focusing too narrowly on the Darfur region while neglecting the wider conflict.

Khan last week said he had become “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of the conflict in Sudan after combatants reportedly attacked the main hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, in what likely constituted a war crime.




El-Fasher South Hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, after it was attacked. (X: Twitter)

Doctors from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed to Arab News that the attack on the South Hospital on June 8 had forced MSF and its partners in the Sudanese Ministry of Health to suspend all activities and withdraw staff from the facility.

A spokesperson said authorities had already reduced services at the hospital, with many patients having been transferred before the attack owing to the uptick in fighting around the city — the last in Darfur still under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

Fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a breakaway military faction that has seized control of swathes of the country since the conflict began on April 15, 2023, were accused of mounting the attack.




Members of Sudan's paramilitary group known as RSS were accused of burning villages in some parts of the country. (AFP/File)

“It’s outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital,” Michel Lacharite, head of emergencies at MSF, told Arab News. “It is not an isolated incident. Staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line.

“Warring parties must stop attacking hospitals. One by one, hospitals are damaged and closed. Remaining facilities in Al-Fasher aren’t prepared for mass casualties, we are trying to find solutions, but the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.”

INNUMBERS

• 14,000 Estimated number of people killed in Sudan since the conflict began on April 15, 2023.

• 10 million People displaced, including over 2 million who have crossed into neighboring countries.

The RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has previously denied claims that its forces attack civilian infrastructure.

While details about the hospital attack remain sketchy, the MSF spokesperson said “most patients” and “all MSF staff” were able to escape.




Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C), known as Hemeti, commander of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, has denied accusations that his group were committing war crimes. (AFP/File)

As the main referral hospital for treating Al-Fasher’s war-wounded, the only one equipped to manage mass casualty events and one of just two with surgical capacity, the loss of services will have a major impact. In less than a month, the facility had treated some 1,300 people.

The UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution on June 14 demanding an end to the siege of Al-Fasher.

The measure expressed “grave concern” over the spreading violence and reports that the RSF was carrying out “ethnically motivated violence.”

During the meeting, Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We believe that the Sudanese people deserve justice and peace. They need a ceasefire, a credible political process and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

Rebutting accusations made by the representative of Sudan’s SAF-backed government, he said: “Excuses and finger pointing only prolongs the suffering of civilians.”

Independent ivestigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones as Mohajer-6 and Zajil-3.




A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on April 18, 2022 shows an Iranian combat drone on display during a military parade in Tehran. Independent investigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones. (AFP/File)

According to Wim Zwijnenburg, a drone expert and head of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organisation PAX, the videos are “an indication of active Iranian support” for SAF.

“If these drones are equipped with guided munitions, it means they were supplied by Iran because those munitions are not produced in Sudan,” Zwijnenburg told BBC.

Sudan’s SAF-dominated governing council has denied acquiring weapons from Iran.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow for the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although the Al-Fasher hospital assault has been a wake-up call for the ICC, attacks of this kind were “nothing new.”

“The fact of the matter is that this is not the first hospital to be looted or destroyed in this conflict,” Hudson told Arab News.




Fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state, on September 1, 2023, in the aftermath of bombardment by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). (AFP/File)

“It is a conflict that has been raging for 14 months and has been fought in much the same way with this attack well within the nature of the conflict.

“What is new is that Sudan’s civilian population’s ability to withstand the shocks of this war has depleted. But while it may feel like a game-changing moment, it is not.”

Referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian War, Hudson said: “Maybe if there was a Srebrenica moment, a move to extermination, that would be game-changing.”

Khan’s comments indicate the ICC has been paying attention to the situation in Sudan. However, Hudson voiced disappointment at the court’s slow response to the conflict.

Contrasting the “alacrity” with which the ICC acted against Russia for its war in Ukraine and Israel for its assault on Gaza, he said it was telling of Sudan’s ranking in international priorities that the court was “only now” investigating.




International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Karim Khan (L) visits the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, on August 21, 2022. (AFP/File)

“Khan’s comments strike me as an admission that the court has not moved at pace and should have been doing more,” said Hudson. “I am not sure what restraints he is operating under but he’s not prioritized Sudan, and, in Darfur, these cases build themselves.

“It is not just the court, this conflict has been neglected more broadly, there need to be moves to build a diplomatic process and to get humanitarian aid because only eight percent of a global appeal has been met, which is shockingly low.

“I would like to see an increase in the cost on this war’s actors as part of a move to bring it to an end, including the use of sanctions, which have not been deployed efficiently, and could have a part to play in bringing actors to the negotiating table.”

Although efforts at brokering a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, Saudi aid agency KSrelief has been rolling out health projects intended to support Sudan’s civilian population, with three projects put into action in the last week alone.




Sudanese villagers receive humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia at a KSrelief center in Khartoum, Sudan. (SPA/File)

With thousands of civilians reportedly killed and thousands more displaced by the fighting across Darfur, the ICC’s machinery has swung into action. Even so, Sudanese international lawyers have expressed skepticism.

One who spoke to Arab News on the condition of anonymity said they were particularly concerned by Khan’s focus on the violence in Darfur when in reality, the violence has spread far beyond the troubled western region.

“The ICC was mandated to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005, and we have not yet seen any results from that mandate, and now this conflict is happening in other areas,” the lawyer said. “This violence is not all in — nor is it originating from — Darfur.

“What is happening outside Darfur is not lesser than the violence happening within it and yet the ICC, partly as a consequence of Sudan not being a party to the court’s jurisdiction, is drawing attention away from this and making it all about Darfur.”

Despite lacking jurisdiction as a consequence of the Sudanese government failing to ratify the ICC treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute, the court had gained jurisdiction for a limited investigation into earlier crimes in Darfur through a UN Security Council referral.

That referral resulted in the ICC’s 2009 decision to issue an arrest warrant for the since-ousted Sudanese President Omar Bashir for multiple charges, including for a genocide that took place in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.




Sudan's former strongman Omar Bashir (left) was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the ICC over genocide charges committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2008 allegedly by the RSF led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (right)

Born out of Arab militias commonly known as Janjaweed, the RSF was mobilized by Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Welcoming Khan’s push for evidence, another Sudan-based legal expert, who spoke to Arab News anonymously, challenged those questioning the focus on Darfur, stressing it made sense given the region’s history.

“Does it make sense to keep looking at cases within the Darfur geographic region? Yes, because all that is happening in Sudan from 2003 up to now can be connected back to Darfur, as that is where this conflict’s root causes lie,” they said.

“There are questions to be asked though in relation to how the ICC is addressing the Darfur case and the role that this, and the coverage of it, will have around the protection of civilians as what is needed is to reduce that risk.”




Internally displaced women wait to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024. (AFP/File)

The war in Sudan has cost the lives of more than 14,000 people and left thousands more wounded while pushing the population to the brink of famine.

The UN warned the warring parties last month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis as more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including over 2 million people who have crossed into neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia has played a central role in facilitating talks between the two warring factions, urging them to meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and the requirements of international humanitarian law.
 

 


First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media
Updated 54 min 8 sec ago
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First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media
  • “The port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, said
  • Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith

HODEIDA, Yemen: Two container ships have docked in Yemen’s Hodeida harbor, the first since a deadly Israeli strike hit fuel storage tanks at the militant-held port, according to Houthi media and ship trackers.
The strikes on Saturday, the first claimed by Israel on Yemen, triggered a massive blaze that burned for days at the dock amid slow firefighting efforts.
It destroyed some cranes and dozens of oil tanks, according to experts. Another tank exploded overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, reigniting some flames at the harbor, a critical gateway for fuel imports and humanitarian aid into Houthi-held areas.
Despite the ongoing threat, “the port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, told the Houthi-run Saba news agency on Tuesday.
The port’s director of maritime operations, Mohamed Al-Sais, told Saba that two ships had docked at the harbor on Tuesday.
He identified them as “Marsa Zenith,” a vessel that carried 514 containers of “various goods,” and “Brother 1,” which was loaded with 22,803 tons of iron, Saba said.
Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith, identifying it as a Panama-flagged vessel that departed from the port of Djibouti.
It additionally reported the arrival of the Tanzania-flagged Brother 1, which also sailed from Djibouti, according to the website.
The quays of Hodeida were spared major damage in the Israeli strike that militants say killed nine people and targeted a fuel storage depot owned by the Yemen Petroleum Company as well as a power plant north of the port.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said there were no reports of major damage to vessels in or near the harbor following the strike.
The port, however, is still at risk of another “catastrophe,” said Mwatana for Human Rights, a Yemeni right group which dispatched an assessment team to the dock.
“Based on (the findings of) our field team, the risk of more fuel tanks exploding still remains,” it told AFP in an emailed statement.
“Whenever the firefighting teams tried to extinguish the fires, the explosions and flames reignited,” Mwatana said.
“There are major concerns that the teams may not be able to... prevent another explosion.”


Hezbollah broadcasts drone video it says shows air base deep in Israel

Hezbollah broadcasts drone video it says shows air base deep in Israel
Updated 24 July 2024
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Hezbollah broadcasts drone video it says shows air base deep in Israel

Hezbollah broadcasts drone video it says shows air base deep in Israel
  • It was the third in a series of videos released by Hezbollah
  • The latest video was more than eight minutes long and, Hezbollah said, mostly shot on Tuesday

BEIRUT: Lebanese armed group Hezbollah broadcast drone video on Wednesday that it said showed air defense facilities, planes and fuel storage units at Israel’s Ramat David air base, nearly 50km (30 miles) into Israeli territory.
It was the third in a series of videos released by Hezbollah which the group has said are meant to demonstrate how far its surveillance of Israel has reached. The first video showed the Israeli port city of Haifa and the second the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
A spokesman for the Israeli military said in a statement on X that the video was filmed by a surveillance drone and the base’s operations were not affected.
The latest video was more than eight minutes long and, Hezbollah said, mostly shot on Tuesday.
It included labels pointing out apparent military infrastructure, including the short-range Iron Dome air defense system which is designed to destroy rockets and drones.
The video also included nighttime shots that Hezbollah said were captured “earlier” and other images the group said were taken earlier in July. The caption said it was only “some” of what the drone had captured.
The videos were released as tensions mount over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and over frequent exchanges of fire across Lebanon’s border with Israel.
Hezbollah has sought to evade high-tech Israeli surveillance with low-tech means, while sending its own drones across the border to monitor and attack Israeli military positions.


‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother

‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother
Updated 24 July 2024
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‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother

‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother
  • Mother fell through several floors of bombed family home
  • Families face daily tragedy as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza

GAZA: Nine months pregnant, Ola Al-Kurd could not wait to hold her baby and bring new life to Gaza during a war which has killed over 39,000 fellow Palestinians and razed much of the enclave.
That special moment never came.
An Israeli airstrike smashed into the family home in Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza on July 19, according to her father Adnan Al-Kurd. The blast threw Ola down several floors to her death in the house, whose inhabitants included women, children and the elderly, he said.
Somehow, her baby survived, as did her husband, who was hospitalized.
“It’s a miracle that the fetus stayed alive inside of her when she was martyred (died),” Adnan Al-Kurd said, contemplating a photo of his daughter’s graduation.
The explosion, like many others, killed several members of a single family, a daily tragedy across Gaza since Israel began its offensive in Gaza in response to a devastating cross-border attack by Palestinian Hamas militants on Oct. 7 last year.
Mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt have failed in multiple attempts to secure a ceasefire. So it is highly unlikely that Israeli airstrikes and shelling will end anytime soon.
“She wanted to hold her child and fill our home with his presence,” Al-Kurd said. “She would say, ‘Mom, hopefully, this will make up for the loss of my martyred brothers and bring life back to our home’.”
Entirely against the odds, surgeons at Al Awda hospital in Nuseirat — where Ola was first taken after the strike — managed to deliver the newborn, Malek Yassin. He was then transferred to Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, where an aunt touched the baby’s face as he lay in an incubator.
“Thank God, this baby’s life was saved and he is now alive and well,” doctor Khalil Al-Dakran said at the hospital, where many medical facilities have been destroyed in over nine months of war.
Al-Kurd gazes at photos of his three late children killed in the Gaza war. He said baby Yassin is blond like his deceased uncle Omar. “I go visit him everyday. He is a part of me,” he said.
Babies who survive frequent Israeli bombardment get no relief as the conflict inflicts more destruction in the heavily built-up, densely populated Gaza Strip.
“We are in fact facing very great difficulties in the nursery department,” said Al-Dakran, due to a lack of sufficient medication and supplies and fears that the hospital generator could stop at any moment due to fuel shortages.
Hospitals across impoverished Gaza have been demolished or seriously damaged during the war, which began when Hamas-led fighters attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages according to Israeli tallies.
Israel responded with an air and ground offensive that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, and levelled much of the coastal territory.
“What is the fault of this child to start his life under difficult and very bad circumstances, deprived of the most basic necessities of life?” said Dakran.


Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
Updated 24 July 2024
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Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
  • Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
  • Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons, far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons

KENITRA: Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country’s entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.
The North African nation projects this year’s harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.
“In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought,” said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.
Belhoussni’s plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and, in regions like North Africa, shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.
The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.
In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.
“The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops,” said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco’s rivers.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons, far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 36,700 square kilometers to 24,700 square kilometers.
Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.
“When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more,” he said. “We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue.”
Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.
The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco’s primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world’s sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Turkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.
“Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change,” Benali said.


Israel far-right minister says prayed at flashpoint mosque compound

Israel far-right minister says prayed at flashpoint mosque compound
Updated 24 July 2024
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Israel far-right minister says prayed at flashpoint mosque compound

Israel far-right minister says prayed at flashpoint mosque compound

JERUSALEM: A far-right Israeli minister said Wednesday he had prayed at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, yet again defying longstanding rules that allow Jews to visit but not to pray.
The mosque compound is Islam’s third holiest site and a symbol of Palestinian national identity but it is also revered by Jews as the site of their ancient temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
“I’m the political leadership and the political leadership authorizes prayers on the Temple Mount,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir told a symposium in the Israeli parliament.
“I prayed on the Temple Mount last week and Jews pray on the Temple Mount... There is no reason why parts of the Temple Mount should be off-limits for Jews,” said Ben Gvir, who is known for provocative gestures.
While Jews and other non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem during specific hours, they are not permitted to pray or display religious symbols.
In recent years, the restrictions have been increasingly flouted by hard-line religious nationalists like Ben Gvir, prompting a sometimes violent reaction from Palestinians.
Ben Gvir’s remarks came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress in a bid to rally support amid tensions with President Joe Biden’s administration over his government’s handling of the war in Gaza.