Global Policy Forum

International Court Plans Darfur Charges by Feb


By Evelyn Leopold

December 13, 2006

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor plans to charge suspects for atrocities in Darfur by February, nearly two years after the U.N. Security Council asked him to probe the Sudan region. In a report to council members ahead of his address to the 15-member body on Thursday, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his office was preparing submissions for arrest warrants to judges of the ICC's pretrial chamber.

"We are planning to complete this work no later than February," Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, said in the report, obtained by Reuters. Actress Angelina Jolie, who has visited Darfur three times and is a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency, welcomed the prospect of indictments, by the court, the world's first permanent criminal tribunal. "The prosecutor is offering justice," she said in a statement. "Humanitarian agencies are trying to provide food which is obviously of dire importance, but we have to stop the crimes."'

Moreno-Ocampo said that since the start of the investigation, his team has carried out more than 70 missions to 17 different countries and conducted more than 100 interviews, many with Darfur victims. But he said that due to the violence in Darfur, he interviewed witnesses outside of Sudan, an arduous task. Evidence, the report said, included rape, torture, willful murder, sexual violence and torture in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced in fighting since 2003.


The ICC can only prosecute suspects when national courts have failed to do so. Moreno-Ocampo said Sudan so far had not conducted trials for the most serious crimes. But he said his staff was traveling to Sudan again in January to get information on 14 people arrested for crimes in Darfur and hoped Khartoum would let them talk to the suspects.

At the request of the Security Council, Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, organized a probe in Darfur two years ago and came up with a list of suspects. Moreno-Ocampo said her information had been preserved. Since Moreno-Ocampo organized his staff in 2003, he has indicted four leaders of Uganda's brutal Lord's Resistance Army and one Congolese militia leader, the only one arrested.

But some of the court's most ardent supporters voiced concern at a meeting last month that he was treading too carefully and could undermine a dream of a permanent tribunal, under discussion since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg at the end of World War Two. In the case of Sudan, it will be nearly impossible to arrest the perpetrators, unless the government does so. But Richard Dicker, director of the Human Rights Watch's international justice program, says an arrest warrant by itself sends a powerful signal. "The impact, the stigmatization of charges, is no small thing," he told Reuters. "Branding suspects as an accused war criminal has a major effect on their legitimacy."

While it was "shameful" that Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have yet to be arrested for war crimes in Bosnia despite charges by a special U.N. court, he said, the indictments had served a purpose. "They marginalized those two as political actors in the former Yugoslavia," Dicker said. "They stripped them of political legitimacy."

The Bush administration strongly objected to the court, fearing frivolous politically motivated indictments, which have not occurred. Russia too had worries -- it signed the statutes but did not ratify them. China never signed. "We are prosecutors enforcing a law that has no consensus," Moreno-Ocampo told the meeting of advocacy and human rights groups last month.

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the ICC Investigations in Darfur
More Information on the International Criminal Court Investigations
More Information on the International Criminal Court
More Information on Sudan


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