In response to an intensification of the conflict (on both sides) in late December 2004 and early January 2005 (including aerial bombing by Government of Sudan forces in December 2004), new sanctions were imposed on 29 March 2005 (UNSCR 1591). The sanctions expanded the arms embargo to include the Government of Sudan (imposed on belligerents in Darfur and all parties to the 2004 N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement), but exempted Government movements of military equipment and supplies into Darfur upon prior Committee approval. The resolution also authorized the application of individual sanctions (asset freeze and travel ban) to those who impeded the peace process, constituted a threat to stability, committed atrocities or violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, violated sanctions measures, or engaged in offensive military over-flights and created a Sanctions Committee and a Panel of Experts. The Government of Sudan was called upon to respect the existing ceasefire agreement (N’djamena 2004) and criticized for its failure to disarm the Janjaweed. Two days later, on 31 March 2005, UNSCR 1593 referred the situation in Darfur since 1 July 2002 to the Prosecutor of the ICC for an investigation.
No individuals were designated for sanctions until a year later, with the passage of UNSCR 1672 (25 April 2006) in an unusual procedural move to name the individuals in the text of the resolution in a decision taken by the Council, not by one of its Sanctions Committees. The four individuals (two on each side of the conflict) designated remain the only designations to date.
On 5 May 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in Abuja by the Government of Sudan and the Minni Minawi (MM) faction of the main Darfur rebel group, SLA/M. The other rebel factions originally part of the negotiations – Abdul Wahid (AW) faction of SLM/A and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – refused to sign and the agreement remained largely unimplemented. The agreement established the Darfur Regional Authority – an interim governing body for the region between the Government of Sudan and the MM. In October, Sudan expelled the top UN official (SRSG Jan Pronk) from the country. UNAMID (a joint UN/AU peacekeeping operation force composed of 19,550 military and 3,772 police personnel) was created in 2007 (UNSCR 1769, 31 July 2007) to implement the peace agreement and was given a mandate to enforce the arms embargo.
Two years after the ICC referral, on 27 April 2007, the ICC issued its first two indictments: the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Minister (Harun) and the Janjaweed militia leader (Kushayb). A year later (14 July 2008) the ICC indicted Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, and on 4 March 2009 issued an arrest warrant for the President. Bashir was the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the ICC. Additional arrest warrants were issued in 2012, on the Sudanese Minister of Defense (Hussein), and in September 2014, on JEM rebel leader (Nourain).
Following joint AU/UN mediation efforts, the Government of Sudan and the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM) rebel faction signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) on 14 July 2011. Like its 2006 Abuja predecessor, the agreement was criticized for failing to include the other rebel groups, namely SLM/A and JEM. UNSCR 2035 (17 February 2012) welcomed the DDPD as the basis for reaching a comprehensive and inclusive solution to the conflict in Darfur and urged armed movements that have not signed to negotiate without preconditions on the basis of the document and participate in the joint AU/UN mediation. Stressing the need for a more comprehensive, national approach to the conflicts in Sudan, three Darfur armed groups (JEM, SLM/A-MM, and SLM/A-AW) joined with the wider Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in November 2011 to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) alliance. Despite increasing rebel linkages between the conflicts in Darfur and the “two areas” (Blue Nile and South Kordofan), the Government of Sudan refused to negotiate outside of the scope of DDPD, entrenching this position in its constitution in January 2015. The DDPD stipulated that the government would hold a referendum on a unified administrative status of Darfur. The President issued a decree extending the 4-year mandate of the Darfur Regional Authority established by the Darfur Peace Agreement until the referendum.
In 2013, the situation in Darfur worsened with the eruption of communal conflicts over land and natural resources, incidents of ethnic cleansing, and Government arms deliveries and aerial bombings (deemed routine violations of the arms embargo by the Sudan Panel of Experts).2014 witnessed an increase in tensions between the Sudanese Government and the UN, culminating in the expulsion of two key UN representatives and official Government calls to wrap up the UNAMID operation in Darfur. Although the PKO’s mission was extended under the same mandate for another year by UNSCR 2228 (29 June 2015), its exit strategy – based on progress against benchmarks and conditions on the ground – was developed by a Joint Working Group (UN, AU, and the Government of Sudan).
The ICC, repeatedly expressed “a deep sense of frustration, even despair” that their briefings “had been followed by inaction and paralysis within the Council while the plight of victims of crimes committed in Darfur has gone from bad to worse” (5 June 2013 UNSC meeting), noting that hardly any of the 55 UNSC resolutions adopted on Sudan since 2004 had been implemented (Report of the ICC to the UN on its activities in 2013/2014). Amid ongoing refusal by some member states (including signatories of the Rome Statute) to surrender President Bashir to the court and the Council’s inaction on the issue, the ICC Prosecutor Fatau Bensouda announced on 12 December 2014 the suspension of investigations into war crimes in Darfur, even though the ICC indictment and two arrest warrants remained in place.
The negotiation process remained stalled despite ongoing efforts of AU, UN, and individual member states (especially Germany) and the signing of the DDPD by several breakaway rebel factions. In late 2014 and early 2015, the largely uncoordinated international negotiation efforts achieved only limited rapprochement between the SRF opposition and the Sudanese National Dialogue Committee, and AU-mediated talks broke down in November 2014. President Bashir’s National Dialogue and Constitutional Progress initiative, which began work in January 2014 produced hundreds of recommendations for political and constitutional reform by 2016, the vast majority of which were not implemented. Despite a major opposition boycott, general elections took place in April 2015, and President Bashir was reelected.
By July 2016 the LJM remained the only rebel group to sign the DDPD with JEM, SLA/N, Abdul Wahid (AW), and Minni Minawi (MM) factions disagreeing on key passages of the agreement. The non-signatory rebel movements continued to reject the DDPD as a comprehensive peace agreement. The government proceeded with the implementation of elements of the DDPD and organized a referendum in Darfur to determine the administrative status of the region in April 2016. Voters opted to retain the five-state administrative structure rather than a one-state administrative structure preferred by rebel groups (who boycotted the referendum). The non-signatory rebel movements categorically rejected both the referendum and its outcome. Following the referendum, the government declared the DDPD process completed and decided not to renew the mandate of the Darfur Regional Authority, which expired in July 2016.
The Special Report of the Secretary General and the Chairperson for UNAMID noted in 2016 that the government began fresh military operations against SLA/AW positions in Jebel Marra after accusing the rebel movement of looting and attacking civilians. The government expanded its ground fighting and aerial bombardment targeting other rebel groups (JEM and SLA/MM). By the end of the year, both groups were pushed outside of the territory of Darfur, increasingly basing their attacks on Sudanese government forces from bases in South Sudan (for JEM) and in Libya (for SLA/MM). As a result, there was very little progress on the engagement of key rebel groups which remained outside of the DDPD during the year, and the agreement remained unrecognized by them.
The Sudanese government created a Darfur Peace Follow-up Office in January 2017, in effect, putting the DDPD and the engagement of rebel groups behind it. Although there were heavy losses for the SLM/AW and its splinter group still operating in central Darfur and for an SLM/MM incursion from Libya in May 2017, by the end of the year, the total number of reported clashes, fatalities, and offensive Government of Sudan air attacks had all declined from the levels of previous years. From the Sudanese government perspective, the conflict situation was largely under control by the end of the year, and the December 2017 Panel report concluded that the government had no interest in continuing talks with rebel groups.
Another major development during 2017, was the gradual lifting of US unilateral sanctions on the country. In early January, former President Obama suspended US sanctions, pending Sudanese government cooperation on a number of key issues (mostly related to counter-terrorism), and the Trump administration followed up with a lifting of all US sanctions on Sudan in October 2017.
Over the course of the long episode, successive Panel of Experts reports have highlighted violations of the arms embargo by the Government of Sudan and by rebel forces. The asset freeze on Sudanese officials has also not been implemented by the government. The conclusion of the 2015 Panel of Experts report that the “sanctions regime is in effect inoperative within Sudan” remains an appropriate summary of the implementation of the UN sanctions measures over the course of the episode. Despite his indictment by the ICC, President Bashir travelled to ICC member states, including Uganda in May 2016 and Rwanda in July 2016, without the arrest warrant being enforced.
Coerce all parties to the conflict (including the Government of Sudan) to fulfill their commitments, agree on a ceasefire, and reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Darfur.
Constrain all parties to the conflict from engaging in violence, including against civilians.
Signal support for humanitarian law and human rights protection.
Ongoing arms imports embargo on any belligerents in Darfur expanded to include all parties to the 2004 N’djamena Ceasefire Agreement (the Government of Sudan exempted with prior Committee approval).
Newly imposed individual travel ban and asset freeze (from February 2012 also applying to entities) to those who impede the peace process, constitute a threat to stability, commit atrocities or violations of international humanitarian or human rights law, violate sanctions measures, or engage in offensive military over-flights.
Sanctions implementation deliberately delayed by 1 month. Sanctions Committee and Panel of Experts created. Designation criteria were specified and targets designated (current and maximum number of designees during the episode – 4 individual designees, two on each side of the conflict). Enforcement authorities not specified.
The Government of Sudan agreed to a process and signed peace agreements in May 2006 and June 2011, but the implementation of the agreements remain partial and largely one-sided, and the agreements included only one of the key rebel groups. The Government of Sudan continued aerial bombardment of Darfur and moved military equipment and supplies into the region without Committee approval. Peace talks remain stalled with the government’s lack of interest in engagement and rebel groups refusal to participate.
Little evidence of significant sanctions contribution to the signing of the May 2006 or July 2011 agreements; joint AU/UN, AU, and regional member state mediation and the intensifications of the Government of Sudan’s military campaigns (in violation of the arms embargo) have played more important roles.
Constraints appear to have been easily managed by the targets. The Government of Sudan moves arms into Darfur without Sanctions Committee approval, including cluster munitions and heavy aircraft, while rebel groups obtain arms from within Sudan and neighboring countries and finance themselves from territories under their control, including in neighboring states). The Government of Sudan sponsored proxy militias in Darfur early on in the episode and Darfur militias extended their operations outside of the Darfur region later in the episode.
Limited evidence of sanctions contribution (PoE 2015 report proclaimed sanctions regime in Sudan “in effect inoperative”); presence of AMIS/UNAMID peacekeeping missions with mandate for enforcement and Sudanese government military victories against rebel groups have been more important in limiting violence.
While the Government of Sudan is still under some stigmatization, President Bashir is increasingly able to travel with impunity to a number of countries party to the Rome Statute and US lifting of unilateral sanctions and normalization of relations reduced previous government stigmatization.
ICC actions have been more significant than the sanctions regime (limited to listing only four individuals in 2006) and the long term lack of UNSC support led to ICC suspension of the Darfur case. Divisions within the Security Council regarding the format of mediation (national/comprehensive or Darfur only/DDPD-based) and Sudan’s role in the conflict have blurred the signal.
Resource diversion, decline in the credibility and/or legitimacy of UN Security Council.