Global Policy Forum

International War Crimes Prosecutor Gets


By Warren Hoge

New York Times
April 6, 2005

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court received a list of 51 suspects in the ethnic killing campaign in the Darfur region of Sudan from Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday, opening the way for war crimes trials in The Hague. The confidential list, said to include the names of senior Sudanese government officials, militiamen, army officers and rebel commanders, was compiled by a United Nations commission in January. It reported then that war crimes "no less serious and heinous than genocide" had been committed in Darfur, and it recommended trial by the international court.

In the months between the list's compilation and a Security Council resolution on Thursday that assigned the trials to the International Criminal Court, the Council had been at odds over the United States' vehement objections to the court. The Bush administration relented after the Council agreed on language in the resolution that would exempt Americans from prosecution in the court.

Mr. Annan delivered the list to the court official, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in the same, still-sealed envelope that was presented by the commission in January. In response, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo, a former human rights lawyer from Argentina, said, "Now, we have a common task: to end the culture of impunity." At the court's offices in The Hague, officials took possession of nine large boxes containing thousands of commission files documenting the widespread rape, murder and arson committed by marauding Arab militias held responsible for the forced displacement of 2.4 million black African villagers and the deaths of up to 300,000 people in Darfur.

Serge Brammertz, the deputy prosecutor for investigations, said it was too early to say when arrest warrants and indictments might be issued, and he expressed hope that Sudan would assist the court. Sudan has said it will refuse to hand over any of its citizens to face trial abroad and will instead prosecute war crimes suspects itself. President Omar al-Bashir took a public oath on Monday, swearing "thrice in the name of Almighty God that I shall never hand any Sudanese national to a foreign court."

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said he would "carefully and independently assess" the proceedings that the Sudanese government says are under way in Khartoum. He also called for help in the investigations from individuals, governments, the African Union and the United Nations. In Khartoum, tens of thousands of Sudanese marched Tuesday in support of a government campaign denouncing the Security Council resolution ordering the trial of the war crimes suspects in the international court. They stopped to demonstrate at both the British and American Embassies and United Nations local headquarters.

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