Home | News    Tuesday 7 October 2008

AU report to UNSC say Sudan serious about combating impunity

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October 6, 2008 (WASHINGTON) –The African Union (AU) hailed Sudan’s efforts in achieving peace in the war ravaged region of Darfur including national proceedings to investigate war crimes.

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Newly-elected African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir on his first visit to Khartoum in his new role on May 18, 2008 (AFP)

The AU forwarded a report created by Sudan to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on September 19 detailing progress made on a number of tracks including the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), Comprehensive Peace Agreement (DPA), deployment of African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), humanitarian situation, human rights situation, Chad-Sudan relations and combating impunity.

Sudan Tribune obtained a copy of the report which was not made public containing a letter from the AU Chairman Jean Ping saying that “the significant progress so far achieved by the GoNU [Government of National Unity] demonstrates its commitment to continued cooperation, without reservation, with the collective efforts of the African Union, the United Nations and the international community, to achieve lasting peace and security in Darfur”.

Ping appealed to the UNSC to invoke Article 16 suspending the indictment of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) “so that we can continue to build on the current momentum, towards lasting peace, justice and security in Darfur, and in Sudan as a whole”.

In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.

The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. It was only this week that judges have started reviewing the case in a process that could possibly drag on to next year.

Sudan and a number of regional organizations including the AU, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Ocampo’s request and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment.

But Western countries have been hesitant to endorse such a move saying that there needs to be progress on the ground before such a resolution is adopted.

On the judicial track the report provided seven examples of cases that were investigated by the Sudanese judiciary as part of its efforts to prosecute war crimes in Darfur.

All the cases date back to the years 2004-2005 but none of them involve any senior Sudanese military or government officials.

The examples shown on the report, deal with assault on aid cars, robbery, mischief and torture.

“The public prosecution of the republic of the Sudan is currently enquiring into a number of criminal suits in the states of Darfur. Such suits will be submitted for trial as soon as the enquiry is completed” the report said.

Sudan also said it dismissed some criminal cases “relating to rape in the most…for lack of evidence”.

The statement comes in sharp contrast with the allegations pressed by the ICC in its case against Al-Bashir.

“Rape is an integral part of the pattern of destruction that the Government of the Sudan is inflicting upon the target groups in Darfur” the prosecutor stated in the summary of his application submitted to the judges.

Ocampo also stated that rape in Darfur has been widely “underreported”.

In August the Sudanese justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat appointed Ibrahim Mohamed as the special Darfur prosecutor with 3 assistants; Kamal Mahjoub Ahmed, Al-Hadi Mahjoub Makkawi and Mamoun Mekki Hamid.

The special prosecutor was assigned to look into rights abuses committed in war ravaged region of Darfur since 2003.

The report said that one of the two suspects wanted by ICC is being investigated by the committee.

The judges of the ICC issued arrest warrants last year for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb in connection with Darfur war crimes.

Kushayb was believed to be in custody but Khartoum later said he was released “for lack of incriminating evidence”.

In August the special prosecutor said he will pull the case that was brought in local courts last year against Kushayb. However he was noncommittal on whether Kushayb will actually stand trial after being previously cleared of all accusations by Sudanese authorities.

Sudan’s report to UNSC said that a number of witnesses were questioned in Kushayb’s case and that more will be asked to testify “when availed”.

Another case currently being investigated according to the report is “the incidence of Kas (shattaya and Kaylake) in which captain Police Saleh Elzein Osman and others are named as accused persons”.

The areas mentioned are close to the borders between West and South Darfur. It is mostly inhabited by the Fur tribe. There were numerous reports of violent attacks against civilians in the area.

Sudan said that the committee “started the short-listing of witnesses who were not yet interrogated and those accused persons who were not yet detained” in connection with these incidents.

“In conclusion, the abovementioned cases clearly testify that the GoNU does not condone impunity and would prosecute crimes of all sorts” Sudan said in the last page of the report.

Some Sudanese politicians have criticized the move by Khartoum to appoint a special prosecutor describing as “belated”.

Sudan’s former prime minister and leader of the Umma Party Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi told the Qatar based Al-Jazeera Arabic TV that the move is "unfortunate" and "sends wrong signals to the international community".

Also the Secretary General of Sudan’s communist party Ibrahim Nugud speaking to Al-Jazeera said that “any decision [on special courts] made that doesn’t convince rebel groups is worthless”.

Sudan has first established special courts immediately after the ICC prosecutor formally decided to open an investigation into Darfur crimes in June 2005.

The ICC Statute prevents investigation into crimes that were looked into by local judiciary under the concept of “complementarity”.

But Khartoum must prosecute Haroun and Kushayb for the same accusations brought against them by the ICC in order for the latter to lose jurisdiction over their cases.

Sudan’s penal code does not include punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Moreover Sudanese military officials enjoy immunity from prosecution for acts committed during their course of duty.

The ICC prosecutor told Sudan Tribune in an interview last August that Khartoum established special courts before but “end up investigating no one”.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute 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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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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