Global Policy Forum

Court Names Darfur War Crimes Suspects

February 27, 2007

The International Criminal Court in The Hague today named the first two suspects wanted for allegedly committing war crimes in Darfur. The men are a former Sudanese government minister and a militia commander. ICC prosecutors have accused Ahmed Muhammed Harun, the former Sudan junior interior minister with responsibility for Darfur, and Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a leader of one of the Janjaweed militias in the western Sudanese region, of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, the Sudanese government, which does not recognise the authority of the ICC, said today it had no plans to hand the men over. "We are not concerned with, nor do we accept, what the International Criminal Court prosecutor has opted for," the country's justice minister, Mohammed Ali al-Mardi, said. Mr Harun - now Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister - recruited militia members "with full knowledge that they, often in the course of joint attacks with the [Sudanese] armed forces, would commit crimes against humanity and war crimes against the civilian population of Darfur", prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

Previously, the ICC has said it had established a clear link between the Sudanese authorities and the Janjaweed. In December, the prosecutor said his investigators had found evidence of rape, torture, murder and sexual violence in Darfur. His evidence against Mr Harun and Mr Abd-al-Rahman - also known as Ali Kushayb - will be assessed by pre-trial judges, who will decide whether to issue arrest warrants or summonses.

Human rights groups say around 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes in Darfur since 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government, complaining of official neglect and discrimination. Khartoum says around 9,000 people have died. UN and African Union observers blame the pro-government Janjaweed militias for the worst atrocities, and many militiamen have talked of being provided with arms by the government.

According to the prosecution, the alleged offences took place in four Darfur villages that were targeted for reasons other than the presence of rebels. "Rather, they attacked these towns and villages based on the rationale that the tens of thousands of civilian residents in and near these towns and villages were supporters of the rebel militia," the document said. The strategy "became the justification for the mass murder, summary execution, and mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participants in any armed conflict", prosecutors said. "Application of the strategy also called for, and achieved the forced displacement of entire villages and communities." Mr Harun, who trained as a lawyer, is known to be close to Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir. A member of Mr Harun's family said today he was not in Sudan and could not comment on the ICC's decision.

In March 2005, the UN Security Council asked the ICC to launch an investigation into the violence in Darfur, which the US has described as genocide - a charge Khartoum vehemently denies. Since then, Mr Moreno-Ocampo's investigators have carried out 70 missions in 17 different countries, tracing victims, taking statements from more than 100 victims and witnesses and collecting documents. However, the ICC is unable to force countries to arrest suspects. This could prove a particular problem in Sudan, which did not sign the 2002 Rome statute that created the court and does not recognise its jurisdiction.

Earlier this week, the Sudanese justice minister, Mohamed Ali al-Mardi, said the country's government would not allow its nationals to be tried outside the country. Sudanese media also reported that Khartoum would put several people - including military personnel and paramilitary troops - on trial for suspected involvement in attacks in Darfur. Mr Moreno-Ocampo has said he will examine any Sudanese trials, because the ICC is only supposed to prosecute when national courts are unwilling or unable to act. However, rights groups claim Khartoum's own tribunals over Darfur have been largely for show.

Washington fiercely opposed the creation of the ICC, fearing it would be used for politically-motivated prosecutions of its citizens, but refrained from blocking the Security Council referral on Darfur.

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


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