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Sudan fires Darfur war crimes prosecutor amid talk of ’transitional justice’

October 17, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese justice minister Mohamed Bushara Dousa issued a decree on Sunday removing the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed, more than two years after he was appointed into this position in an apparent bid to deflect the case of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

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Sudan justice minister Mohamed Bushara Dousa (Sudan TV)

Sudan’s official news agency (SUNA) said that Dousa also terminated the mandate of Mohamed’s three assistants. Dousa tapped his Undersecretary Abdel-Dayem Zumrawi to replace Mohamed with the task of looking into crimes committed in the war ravaged region since 2003.

He said that the purpose of this change is to promote justice efforts in Darfur and underscored his ministry’s keenness and commitment to achieving this goal.

Zumrawi will be assisted by Al-Fatih Mohamed Eissa Tayfour, Babiker Ahmed Ali Gishi, Dr. Al-Nazeer Hamed Faki and Sami Mubarak Mahmood Osman. The commission will also include representatives from the police and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

The special prosecutor has been asked to submit a monthly report on the progress of his work to the justice minister containing the cases that are being looked into and any measures being taken on them.

Last week, the Sudanese justice minister emphasized during a visit to Doha that bringing justice to Darfur is the responsibility of the government and not an external party in reference to the ICC. He acknowledged that the work being done in that regard has taken longer than expected but stressed that this is caused by difficulties in investigating violations that took place during a time of war.

"We did not establish full justice, but we are ready to assert justice in the region and if we cannot present [any] cases to the courts, we can resort to the axis of the reconciliations and transitional justice," Dousa said.

An African Union panel headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki suggested in a report submitted last year that the Sudanese judicial system on its own is incapable of carrying out credible prosecutions in Darfur and called for further changes within the legal system.

Mbeki recommended the establishment of hybrid courts to try the perpetrators containing foreign judges. However, the Sudanese government rejected the idea and to-date no progress has been done in implementing the AU proposal.

Alex De Waal, who is an adviser to Mbeki’s panel, told Sudan Tribune last month that the Sudanese government "will be foolish and it will lose a lot of the support and sympathy it may have in Africa" if it keeps stonewalling the proposal.

Over the course of the last year, the AU commission have appeared to shift focus away from Darfur to the referendum in South Sudan due to take place early next year.

Human Rights groups accuse Khartoum of dragging its feet on bringing war crime suspects to justice and described all steps announced by the government so far as a sham.

The ICC has charged president Bashir, current governor of South Kordofan Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ahmed Kushayb with war crimes from the government side.

Attempts in the past by the justice ministry to investigate Haroun and Kushayb has been blocked for unknown reasons. Last year, Haroun blasted the Darfur special prosecutor when the latter hinted that he wants to investigate him.

The then state minister for humanitarian affairs accused the former justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat of taking positions “inconsistent with the state position refusing to deal with the ICC”.

The former special prosecutor has not announced the prosecution of any cases during his time in office.