Home | News    Tuesday 27 February 2007

ICC to name first Darfur suspects

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Feb 26, 2007 (AMSTERDAM) — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor will name the first suspects accused of committing war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region on Tuesday and human rights activists hope he will pursue senior figures.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is expected to submit evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity against a small number of individuals. Pre-trial judges will then decide whether to issue arrest warrants or summonses.

A spokeswoman said the prosecutor’s office planned to issue a statement before a news conference due at 1300 GMT.

Moreno-Ocampo said in December his investigators had found evidence of rape, torture, murder and sexual violence in Darfur. His announcement will be closely watched to see if he charges government figures as well as rebels.

"We eagerly await the prosecutor’s recommendations for holding those responsible for the gravest crimes fully accountable," said Sudanese human rights lawyer Osman Hummaida.

Experts say some 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others driven from their homes in Darfur since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government, charging it with neglect. Khartoum says about 9,000 people have died.

In March 2005, the U.N. Security Council asked the ICC to launch an investigation into the violence in Darfur, which the United States has called genocide, a charge Khartoum denies.

"I hope the message that goes out from this action is that the days of absolute impunity that have existed for horrific crimes committed in Darfur are coming to an end," said Richard Dicker of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

U.N. and African Union observers blame pro-government militias, known as Janjaweed, for the worst atrocities.

NO JURISDICTION?

Sudan’s Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi was quoted as saying on Monday the ICC had no jurisdiction over its nationals and it would not allow anybody, including rebels, to be tried outside the country.

Sudanese media also reported Khartoum would put several people on trial, including military personnel and paramilitary troops, for suspected involvement in attacks in Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo has said he would examine whether Sudan’s government is conducting its own judicial proceedings over Darfur as the ICC is only supposed to prosecute when national courts are unwilling or unable to act.

Rights groups say Khartoum’s own investigations and tribunals for crimes in Darfur have been largely for show.

Some analysts suggest Khartoum has resisted pressure to authorise a deployment of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers to support a 7,000-strong African Union mission in Darfur because it fears U.N. soldiers might be used to arrest ICC suspects.

The ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, started work in 2002 and is now supported by 104 nations, although still not by Russia, China and the United States.

Washington fiercely opposed the creation of the ICC, fearing it would be used for politically motivated prosecutions of its citizens, but its opposition has been waning and it refrained from blocking the Security Council referral on Darfur.

Moreno-Ocampo has so far only charged rebels involved in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

(Reuters)

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