Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Darfur war criminals named

Prosecutors of the International Criminal Court are now pursuing suspects of war crimes in Darfur. It should be noted here that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is not the same as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that cleared Serbia yesterday of genocide in Bosnia during the 1990’s. The ICC handles crimes against humanity and the ICJ handles disputes between sovereign states. The ICJ is known to move at a “glacial pace” – Bosnia had filed the formal complaint against Serbia in 1993 that was finally ruled upon yesterday. Let’s hope the ICC will move a little faster.

With that clarification, this report is from the BBC:
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have named a minister and a militia leader who they suspect of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

Ahmed Haroun, state humanitarian affairs minister, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, were named.

Some 200,000 people have died and more than two million people have fled their homes during the four-year conflict.

Sudan rejects the ICC's authority, saying its own courts can try suspects.

Mr Haroun, who was state interior minister in charge of Darfur at the height of the conflict, is accused of helping to recruit militias responsible for murders, rape and torture.

Alongside Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Arab Janjaweed militia, Mr Haroun is accused of crimes committed during attacks on villages near Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala in West Darfur.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked pre-trial judges to issue summonses for the two, saying there was reason to believe they: "Bear criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004".

He said that together the men were suspected of 51 counts of war crimes.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo is expected to reveal more evidence in a news conference at 1300 GMT.

One former rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, said it would co-operate with the ICC process if it was fair and

"Any individual in the movement who is accused must hand themselves over and prove their innocence in front of the judiciary, whether this is inside or outside Sudan," deputy leader Dr Al-Rayah Mahmud told Sudan's Al-Watan newspaper.

Numerous international reports and experts have directly linked the brutal activities of the Janjaweed to the central Sudanese government in Khartoum.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher, in the Sudanese capital, says joint attacks on villages have been well-documented and there is little doubt the militia have been given weapons and vehicles to fight rebels.

But Sudan's President, Omar al-Bashir, denies involvement and says the level of conflict in the region has been greatly exaggerated by the US and the West.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo has spent two years examining evidence gathered by a UN investigative team after the Security Council voted to forward him a list of 51 names suspected of crimes against humanity.

He said the crimes investigated included killings, tortures, rapes, looting, forced displacement and persecution.

"We hope that the work of the entire court will help to ensure the end of impunity for the crimes committed in Darfur," Mr Moreno-Ocampo told the BBC's Arabic Service.

"We also hope to contribute to the prevention of future crimes in the region."

After Mr Moreno-Ocampo has filed the evidence of alleged war crimes with the court, its judges will have to decide whether to open an inquiry against the suspects with the aim of issuing international arrest warrants.

The BBC's Fergal Keane, reporting from The Hague, says the presentation of evidence will be a highly significant momentn the Darfur crisis.

But the announcement is likely to infuriate the government of Sudan which refuses to co-operate with the court.
Human rights groups have also been critical of the investigation, which was conducted mostly outside Sudan due to security concerns.

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