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ICC prosecutor criticizes UN chief over Darfur war crimes suspects

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By Wasil Ali

October 15, 2007 (THE HAGUE) — The Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo criticized the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for neglecting the issue of justice in his monthly reports on Sudan.

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Luis Moreno-Ocampo

“Justice was not mentioned in the UNSG subsequent reports on Darfur where the UN secretariat developed a three prong approach with a humanitarian, political and security components only” Ocampo said in prepared remarks to the 11th diplomatic briefing at the ICC headquarters in the Hague.

The judges of the ICC issued their first arrest warrants for suspects accused of war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region in early May.

The warrants were issued for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Kushayb. Sudan has so far rejected handing over the two suspects.

The warrant for Haroun lists 42 counts including murder, torture and persecution, while the warrant for Kushayb lists 50 counts including murder and intentionally attacking civilians.

Last month Sudan appointed the second war crime suspect Ahmed Haroun as head of a committee investigating human rights complaints in Darfur. Sudan’s foreign minister Lam Akol has also announced earlier this month in New York that Kushayb was releases of from jail due to “lack of evidence” against him.

Ocampo said that he explained to Ban Ki-Moon and other UN officials that the ICC “needed first and foremost words expressing their political support”.

The Chief prosecutor warned that silence on the issue of enforcing the arrest warrants “could be interpreted as a weakening resolve of the international community” and “could encourage the provocative gesture of promoting Harun instead of removing him from Office”.

Ban Ki-Moon has made remarks to the press during his visit to Khartoum in September hinting that the ICC arrest warrants should be kept in the background for the time being while the cooperation of the Sudanese government is secured on the deployment of peacekeeping force in Darfur.

However the UN Chief later admitted that he brought up the issue of the ICC arrest warrants during his meeting with Sudan’s president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir despite denials by Khartoum.

The Chief prosecutor stressed that “the issue [Darfur arrest warrants] will not go away” and that he will inform the UN Security Council next December that Sudan is not complying with resolution 1593 referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC.

Ocampo also disclosed for the first time that he has been approached by a number of countries suggesting that he should try and indict “lower level perpetrators, easier to arrest than Ministers or powerful militia leaders”.

It is not clear what prompted the requests by these states or whether they pertain to a specific case handled by the ICC. The Darfur case is the only one so far to yield an arrest warrant against a government official.

Some diplomats have suggested that the ICC is a stumbling block for resolving the Darfur crisis given Khartoum’s refusal to hand over suspects.

However Ocampo emphasized that he will only prosecute individuals “based on the criminal evidence we collect and subject only to the judicial review of the Chambers [judges]”.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statue, but the UN Security Council triggered the provisions under the Statue that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.

(ST)

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