City Bar Supports Hybrid Court to Supplement International Criminal Court Prosecutions in Sudan

The New York City Bar Association has sent a letter to the African Union (AU), expressing concerns about that organization’s “explicit lack of support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to endorse the recommendation of the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur for a hybrid court for Sudan.

“Given Sudan’s problematic justice record, the Association urges that those most responsible for the crimes in Darfur be tried before the ICC, a court capable of adhering to internationally accepted fair trial standards,” reads the letter signed by City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour and addressed to H.E. Dr. Jean Ping, President of the African Union. “However, because of the mass number of perpetrators implicated in the crimes, the limited capacity of the ICC to prosecute no more than a few high level individuals, and the need to rebuild the Sudanese judiciary, the Association nonetheless endorses the AU High-Level Panel’s proposal to establish a hybrid court to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Sudan, in addition to—not to supplant—the role of the ICC. Such a hybrid tribunal could be formed by agreement between the U.N. and Sudan.”

While the AU, which is composed of 49 African States, adopted a motion calling for non-cooperation with the warrant issued by the ICC for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, it also established a High-Level Panel on Darfur, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The Panel expressed “the deeply felt concern that the Sudanese national justice system would not, or could not, deal adequately with the crimes of Darfur,” and recommended (i) the creation of a hybrid court with Sudanese and AU-appointed international judges; (ii) strengthening Sudan’s domestic criminal justice system; (iii) removing immunity grants against members of the security forces, armed forces and police; and (iv) creating a truth, justice and reconciliation commission.

The Association’s letter states, “The Association stands ready, willing and able to assist the AU and Sudan with its plans to create a hybrid tribunal, including through training sessions on fair trial standards and/or the application of internationally accepted definitions of the crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”