Global Policy Forum

Darfur War Crimes Suspect Leads Sudan Rights Probe


By Simon Apiku

September 5, 2007

Rights activists on Wednesday criticised a move by Sudan's government and its main political partner to authorise a committee headed by a Darfur war crimes suspect to investigate human rights complaints. The committee was initially set up by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) of former southern rebels to monitor the security situation between the country's north and south.

Ann Itto, a co-chair of the committee, said Ahmed Haroun would help launch its new initiative to probe human rights violations in Darfur, a role approved by both parties at the weekend. Haroun, a junior minister from the NCP, is one of two people accused by the International Criminal Court of committing war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. The committee comprised of representatives from the ruling party and former southern rebels who in 2005 signed a peace deal with Khartoum to end over two decades of north-south civil war, will investigate rights infractions raised by either side.

Opposition politicians said they were outraged that Haroun was heading the committee. "By allowing Haroun to co-chair this committee, Sudan wants to send the signal that it does not recognise the decision of the ICC," said Kamal Omar, a lawyer and human rights activist. He said Haroun's presence on the committee means it will have "no credibility", and added that it further demonstrated the ruling party's disregard for human rights.

The Hague-based ICC issued a warrant for Haroun's arrest in March, and has accused him of conspiring with a pro-government militia commander who prosecutors said led attacks on towns and villages where dozens were killed. The ICC has also accused Haroun, formerly a state interior minister who now holds a humanitarian affairs portfolio, of recruiting and arming local militias to combat Darfur rebels. International experts estimate 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the past 4-1/2 years of conflict. Khartoum puts the death toll at 9,000.

Sudan's government has refused to act on the warrants for Haroun and the commander, saying there was no evidence and that Sudan, like the United States, was not an ICC signatory. A spokesman for the SPLM said it was "unfortunate" that Haroun was sharing leadership of the committee with them.

"This is a mockery of justice. It would have been better not to form this commission," SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje said. "They are making a joke out of it. They are not serious." Itto, Haroun's SPLM co-chair on the committee, said her party had no right to reject Haroun's role on the committee. Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in Darfur in early 2003 accusing the central government of marginalising the arid region. Observers say Khartoum mobilised militia to quell the revolt, but then failed to disarm them.

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