The International Criminal Court is investigating a surge in hostilities in Sudan’s Darfur region since mid-April, including reports of killings, rapes and crimes affecting children, the top prosecutor told the United Nations on Thursday.
“The office can confirm that it has commenced investigations in relation to incidents occurring in the context of the present hostilities,” the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan’s office said in a report to the UN Security Council.
ICC prosecutors are “closely tracking reports of extrajudicial killings, burning of homes and markets, and looting, in Al Geneina, West Darfur, as well as the killing and displacement of civilians in North Darfur and other locations across Darfur,” the report said.
It is also examining “allegations of sexual and gender-based crimes, including mass rapes and alleged reports of violence against and affecting children,” it said.
Khan told the Security Council that anybody inside or outside Sudan who aids or abets crimes in Darfur will be investigated. And he said he instructed his office to give priority to crimes against children and sexual- and gender-based violence.
The regular army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have been battling in the capital Khartoum and other areas of Sudan in a power struggle that exploded in mid-April.
More than 3 million people have been uprooted, including more than 700,000 who have fled into neighboring countries.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Sudan, Africa’s third largest country by land area, was on the brink of full-scale civil war that could destabilize the wider region.
While the ICC cannot currently work in Sudan due to the security situation, it intends to do so as soon as possible, the report said. Under a 2005 UN Security Council resolution, its jurisdiction is limited to the Darfur region.
Earlier Thursday, the UN human rights office said at least 87 bodies – some of them from the ethnic African Masalit tribe – were uncovered in a mass grave in West Darfur, and cited “credible information” that they were killed by Rapid Support Force fighters and allied fighters.