Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the reported agreement by the Sudanese government to transfer ousted dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to stand trial for charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
“The hand-over of al-Bashir would represent a historic milestone for international justice and human rights,” said Susannah Sirkin, director of policy at PHR. “Al-Bashir – responsible for some of the most heinous atrocities the world has seen in the 21st century – has eluded accountability for nearly two decades. His reign of terror, reinforced by mass rape and torture, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of hundreds of villages, devastated livelihoods, and forced massive displacement of the population in Darfur, Sudan.”
“We encourage Sudan’s officials to act on their stated commitment to justice and transfer al-Bashir to the ICC expeditiously, where he will face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide for directing mass killings, rape, and the pillaging and burning of villages,” said Sirkin. “Doing so would help end the impunity that perpetrators of international crimes in Darfur have enjoyed for too long and offer a measure of justice for the region’s many survivors and victims. It would also mark an important step in the current Sudanese government’s ongoing reform efforts, two years after al-Bashir was ousted during a civilian uprising.”
“PHR has witnessed and documented some of the devastation caused by al-Bashir and his allies. We honor the countless Sudanese survivors and activists who have pressed for truth and justice over all these years, often in the face of violence and persecution. It is their courage coupled with the persistence of the ICC that has brought Sudan to this pivotal moment, where access to an international accountability process is finally within reach.”
PHR began investigating the violations in Darfur in 2004, collecting eyewitness testimony from dozens of Darfurian refugees in neighboring Chad. PHR clinician-investigators found that the al-Bashir government forces and Janjaweed militia eliminated access to food, water, and medicine. They expelled people into inhospitable terrain and blocked crucial outside assistance, creating conditions intended to destroy the non-Arab populations of Darfur.
PHR was among the first international organizations to call these atrocities for what they were: genocide. Findings from this initial investigation were published in the 2006 report “Darfur: Assault on Survival.”
Another PHR report, “The Use of Rape as a Weapon of War in the Conflict in Darfur, Sudan,” published in 2004, spotlighted a campaign of rape by the Janjaweed militias in concert with the government of Sudan. In partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, PHR also published “Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women” in 2009, documenting the scope and long-term impact of rape and other sexual violence experienced by these women.
PHR’s work in the region contributed to the Stop Mass Rape in Darfur and Chad campaign and the Darfur Survival Campaign, which mobilized medical professionals, students, and members of the public to advocate for peace and security in Darfur and for the prosecution of perpetrators by the ICC for the crime of genocide. PHR was also a member of the Save Darfur Coalition, a group of more than 190 religious, political, and human rights organizations to raise awareness and mobilize a response to the atrocities in the region.
*Editor’s note: Related photography from award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Wadleigh is available for media use, with attribution. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.