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Sudan slams ICC prosecutor’s request for arrest of its defense minister

December 2, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan has accused the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno-Ocampo, of seeking to undermine its military establishment and sabotage peace in Darfur after he requested an arrest warrant for the country’s defense minister.

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Sudan’s defense minister Abdul Rahim Hussein (GETTY)

Ocampo on Friday asked judges at the ICC’s pre-trial chamber to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein, on charges of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” allegedly committed in the country’s western region of Darfur.

According to a statement issued by the prosecutor’s office, Hussein is “one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility” for the same crimes under which the ICC issued arrest warrants in 2007 for Ahmed Haroun, who is now the governor of South Kordofan state, and Ali Kushaiyb, who is a suspected leader of the government-backed Janjaweed militias.

“The crimes were perpetrated during attacks upon the towns and villages of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar Localities of West Darfur. The attacks followed a common pattern: the Government of Sudan forces surrounded the villages, the Air Force dropped bombs indiscriminately and foot soldiers, including Militia/Janjaweed, killed, raped and looted the entire village, forcing the displacement of 4 million inhabitants,” the prosecutor’s statement said.

Hussein is now set to be the second high-profile suspect indicted by the ICC behind Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir who faces two arrest warrants by the Hague-based court on charges of “war crimes”, “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” he allegedly orchestrated in Darfur. The ICC has also issued summons to appear for three Darfur rebel leaders.

Responding to the new allegations on the word of its foreign ministry, Sudan said that the ICC’s prosecutor “carefully timed” his request to coincide with “victories” achieved by Sudan’s army (SAF) against rebel groups in the country’s border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

“We have no doubt that the timing is meant to undermine these victories and uplift the moribund morale of the rebels,” the foreign ministry said in a statement seen by Sudan Tribune.

The ministry further claimed that the timing and contents of the prosecutor’s new request was also targeting the Darfur peace agreement signed in Doha in mid-July and serving the agendas of the rebel groups that reject the deal and seek to obstruct its implementation.

“We also believe that one of the timing’s implications is that the ICC’s prosecutor desires not to leave his position before he creates a new media stunt to add to his previous ones,” the statement added.

The statement said that Sudan’s judiciary system is well-established, willing and capable of dealing with any suit filed by any aggrieved party and against anyone.

“The doors of the Sudanese judiciary will remain open in front of any aggrieved or seeker of justice.”

Sudan’s reaction is unsurprising given the fact that Khartoum has refused to hand over any of the indicted individuals to the ICC and rejected its jurisdictions.

General Hussein has been a senior government operative since an Islamist-backed coup on 30 June 1989 brought Al-Bashir to power. He served as a secretary-general of the Revolution Command Council of the National Salvation that governed the country following the coup.

He is known to be a close friend of Al-Bashir and has mainly served in the security dockets – three spells in the interior ministry and twice as minister of defense – plus stints at the presidency of the republic as a minister or adviser.

Delineating his prominence in the coup and decision-making, Hussein told the media on March 13 2008 that he was "one of the few who carried out the NIF coup d’etat.”

"I am not just a minister or an employee, but I am a decision maker and I am responsible for any results!"

During the pinnacle of Darfur crisis in 2003 and 2004, Hussein was serving as a minister of interior and a representative of Al-Bashir in Darfur.

“With all of the powers and responsibilities of the president, Mr. Hussein delegated some of his responsibilities to Mr. Harun, [then] the Minister of State for the Interior, whom he appointed to head the “Darfur Security Desk,” Ocamop said in his request to the judges.

In the Hague the ICC prosecutor told Sudan Tribune that they have recently collected new evidence on Hussein’s role in the Darfur crimes.

Ocampo noted that Hussein was Haroun’s boss providing him with instructions during the military campaign.

Right groups welcome prosecutor’s request

Two leading human rights organization have welcomed the ICC prosecutor’s request for the arrest of Hussein, calling it a “step forward” in pursuit of justice for the victims of Darfur’s crimes.

"The ICC Prosecutor’s request today for an arrest warrant against Sudan’s current defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, is a step forward in the efforts to bring justice to the people of Darfur,” said the UK-based Amnesty International (AI) in a press release.

AI however pointed out that this development “also highlights the continuing failure of Sudan and other governments to cooperate with the ICC by arresting the other suspects - including President Al-Bashir, Minister of State Harun, and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb.

“Sudan and all state parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC have an unconditional obligation to arrest and surrender these individuals to the ICC," it concluded.

As far as Human Rights Watch (HRW) is concerned, the request for arresting Hussien is “an important step toward justice for serious crimes committed in Darfur.”

Elise Keppler, a senior international justice counsel at HRW, said that Hussien “is implicated as a key figure in heinous abuses committed in Darfur, including attacks against civilians.”

“The warrant request is an important step to advance justice for the many victims of crimes in Darfur.”