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Sudan confirms release of Darfur war crimes suspect indicted by ICC

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By Wasil Ali

April 1, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — The Sudanese government today confirmed that it had freed a militia leader indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for lack of evidence.

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Ali Kushayb

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 Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb. Sudan has so far rejected handing over the two suspects.

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) circulated a notice for the arrest of both suspects in mid-2007.

The spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid Al-Mubarak was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) as saying that Haroun and Kushayb were not prosecuted “because there is no evidence against them”.

Al-Mubarak did not return Sudan Tribune calls requesting additional details on the release of Kushayb.

Khartoum had long claimed that Kushayb was in custody since November 2006 for investigations into allegations of violations he committed during the peak of the Darfur conflict in 2004.

Kushayb has been nicknamed as the “Butcher of Darfur” by Darfur refugees and is alleged to have carried out mass executions against the African population in the area.

"We have eyewitnesses who saw Kushayb on his horse giving instructions in each of the cases. I have eyewitnesses who saw Kushayb involved in the execution of prisoners, the rape of women," the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in statements last year.

Sudan’s former Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told a news conference in Khartoum in February 2007 that “"Ali Kushayb, along with two other individuals, was sent for trial. He was detained as a suspect, questioned, his statements were evaluated and witness statements recorded, and then the decision was taken to refer him to court".

But in March 2007 Kushayb’s trial was delayed when the defendants filed an appeal with the Justice ministry.

Shortly afterwards the Sudanese justice ministry ordered a ban on publishing reports or details relating to criminal cases on Darfur conflict and many observers at the time voiced skepticism over Khartoum’s seriousness to try perpetrators of crimes in the war ravaged region.

In early October Sudan’s former foreign minister Lam Akol told the pro-government daily Al-Rayaam from New York that Kushayb was freed “due to lack of incriminating evidence against him”.

However Al-Mardi issued a quick denial to the Al-Rayaam report describing it as “false” without directly commenting on Akol’s statements.

The former Justice Minister was asked again by Al-Rayaam last November on the whereabouts of Kushayb and he reiterated that the militia leader was “never released” before saying that he refrained from commenting on the issue “because it is under investigation”.

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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