1 March 2007

Sudan: Darfur - ICC Names War Suspects!

The Sudanese government has vowed not to hand over the suspects to the International Criminal Court.

What Khartoum had long dreaded may come to pass. The chief prosecutor of the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has begun naming war crimes suspects from the government and rebel sides. The ICC has named Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Haroun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.

Reports and international experts have directly linked the brutal activities of the Arab Janjaweed militia, which have claimed some 200,000 lives and forced over two million Sudanese to flee their homes, to the central Sudanese government in Khartoum.

Reports say that 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.

The Chief prosecutor has reportedly 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. The crimes include killings, tortures, rapes, looting, forced displacement and persecution.

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. Sudan's government has however refused to hand over the two men named by the prosecutors, saying its own judicial system is capable of trying suspects.

Critics have observed that Khartoum has particular concerns about the ICC. They believe that the Sudanese government has permanently rejected UN peacekeepers because the ICC may find it easier to make its case if peacekeepers are in place to provide security throughout Darfur.

One fact, however, is clear: Sudan's leaders, fortified by the fact that the international community has failed to establish any other effective leverage over Khartoum, see the ICC as the only currency on the table to "trade" for peace.

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