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UN official slams Darfur crimes court

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Sept 26, 2005 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan’s special court to try alleged war crimes in its Darfur region has not addressed major atrocities committed during a rebellion in the region, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

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Luis Moreno Ocampo

Juan Mendez, the U.N. special adviser on the prevention of genocide, said during a visit to Sudan that many Darfur citizens did not trust the government because it has failed to punish the perpetrators of crimes.

"We...were disappointed to learn that the cases that are being considered by the special court for crimes committed in Darfur did not deal with the major crimes committed during the conflict," he told reporters in Khartoum.

Sudan, which has rejected any outside trials of Sudanese citizens, set up the court earlier this year saying it could be a substitute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigating alleged crimes against humanity in the conflict.

The U.N. Security Council in March referred the Darfur conflict to the ICC, but six months on investigators have yet to visit Khartoum in the face of reluctance by the Sudanese authorities to cooperate fully with the court.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million driven from their homes since a rebellion by mostly non-Arab rebels against Khartoum began more than two years ago in the region.

The rebels accuse the Islamist and Arab-dominated government in Khartoum of neglecting Darfur and of giving Arab tribes preferential treatment.

"Although we received assurance from the authorities that they soon will take important steps with regard to accountability, there is a strong sense in Darfur that impunity continues to prevail," Mendez said after visiting Darfur refugee camps.

The United States called the violence in Darfur genocide and says the government armed Arab militias who looted, burned and killed in non-Arab villages throughout the region the size of France. Tens of thousands have been killed in the fighting and 200,000 refugees are encamped in neighbouring Chad.

(Reuters)

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