Global Policy Forum

International Court Issues First Darfur Arrest Warrants

Agence France Presse
May 2, 2007

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued its first arrest warrants over the Darfur conflict for a Sudanese minister and a Janjaweed militia leader accused of murder, torture and rape. In documents released Wednesday the judges said there were "reasonable grounds" to conclude that Ahmed Haroun, Sudan's secretary of state for humanitarian affairs and a former minister in charge of Darfur, and Ali Kosheib, a principal leader of the Khartoum-backed Janjaweed, were "criminally responsible" for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Khartoum was quick to reject the warrants, saying the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The ICC arrest warrants, dated April 27, charge Haroun and Kosheib with a long list of 51 counts including murder, torture, mass rape and the forced displacement of entire villages during a series of attacks in western Darfur in 2003 and 2004. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo hailed the move as "a big and important step ahead". "These two will have to face justice, they will be in the dock, in two months or two years ... they know that," he told AFP Wednesday.

Moreno-Ocampo focused his 20-month investigation on events alleged to have occurred between 2003 and 2004, the most violent period in the crisis. The Arab Janjaweed, armed and backed by the Sudanese government, are accused of the worst violence, involving attacks on civilians of black African origin following a rebellion against Khartoum. "The judges have issued arrest warrants. As the territorial state, the government of the Sudan has a legal duty to arrest Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kosheib. This is the International Criminal Court's decision, and the government has to respect it," the prosecution said.

Sudan meanwhile insisted that the ICC has no jurisdiction to try alleged crimes committed in Darfur. "Sudan rejects the ICC prosecutor's decision and our position is in line with international law because Sudan is not a member of the treaty that founded this jurisdiction," Sudanese Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardhi said. Some critics of the ICC have said the arrest warrants could hamper efforts to broker a peace in Darfur."We are one piece in a more complicated problem," Moreno-Ocampo said. "I cannot provide peace and security." The conflict in Darfur is in its fifth year and has caused 200,000 deaths and has displaced two million people, according to the United Nations. Sudan contests the figures, saying that only 9,000 have died.

"The judges' decision clearly shifts the burden on Sudan to adhere to its responsibilities as it must under the Security Council resolution," Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch told AFP. The case was referred to the ICC by a UN Security Council resolution passed on March 25, 2005. The judges had the choice between issuing a summons to appear or an international arrest warrant. They explained that because Haroun is part of the "inner circle" of Sudanese government and there are allegations that he may have concealed evidence his arrest is necessary "to ensure that he will not obstruct or endanger the investigation."

Kosheib, who is also known as Ali Muhammed Ali, one of the key leaders of the Janjaweed militia, is currently in custody in Sudan. The judges said his arrest was necessary to ensure his appearance in The Hague because his detention "prevents him from willingly and voluntarily appearing before the court." If the men are handed over to the ICC there will first be a so-called confirmation of charges hearing, where judges will have to decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to an actual trial.

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


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