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ICC to name Darfur suspects on Feb. 27

Feb 22, 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 Feb. 27, the prosecutor’s office said on Thursday.

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Luis Moreno Ocampo

Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in December his investigators had found evidence of rape, torture, murder and sexual violence in Darfur. His announcement is keenly awaited to see if he charges government figures as well as rebels.

Experts say around 200,000 people have been killed and about 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 only about 9,000 people have died.

"Moreno-Ocampo will submit evidence, in connection with named individuals, of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur," his office said in a statement, adding that the prosecutor would hold a news conference at 1300 GMT on Feb. 27.

Once Moreno-Ocampo has filed the evidence, pre-trial judges will decide whether to issue summons or arrest warrants for the named individuals. Formal charges will only follow later.

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.

A U.N. commission, that came up with a list of suspects it handed over to Moreno-Ocampo, found no evidence of genocide, but said heinous crimes no less serious than genocide had taken place and individuals may have acted with genocidal intent.

Moreno-Ocampo has also sought information from Khartoum on suspects the government has arrested in relation to Darfur.

TURNING POINT FOR COURT

U.N. and African Union observers blame pro-government militia, known as Janjaweed, for the worst atrocities. But Moreno-Ocampo is under pressure to charge figures from all sides of the conflict, including rebels and government officials.

Ongoing fighting has hampered the work of ICC investigators, who have had to interview witnesses outside Sudan. The conflict has caused one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and spilled over to Chad and the Central African Republic.

Divisions among Darfur’s mostly non-Arab rebel factions have contributed to delaying an effective peace deal with Khartoum.

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. It announced last month it will launch its first trial — probably later this year — against Congolese militiaman Thomas Lubanga, accused of recruiting child soldiers.

The court is now supported by 104 nations, although still not by big powers Russia, China and the United States, which fiercely opposed the creation of the ICC, fearing it would be used for politically motivated prosecutions of its citizens.

But the Darfur case was seen as a turning point for the court as Washington refrained from blocking the Security Council referral.

(Reuters)

For more details please read the ICC media advisory at
http://www.icc-cpi.int/press/pressreleases/225.html