Global perspective Human stories

International Criminal Court names first war crimes suspects in Darfur

International Criminal Court names first war crimes suspects in Darfur

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor today named a Sudanese minister and a militia commander as the first suspects he wants tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region.

The Security Council referred the Darfur issue, along with the names of 51 suspected perpetrators, to the ICC in March 2005, after a UN inquiry into whether genocide occurred in Darfur found the Government responsible for crimes under international law and strongly recommended referring the dossier to the Court.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo presented evidence showing that Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Sudanese Minister of State for the Interior, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, “jointly committed crimes against the civilian population in Darfur,” according to an ICC press release.

“Based on evidence collected during the last 20 months, the Prosecution has concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, (also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman) bear criminal responsibility in relation to 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes,” it stated.

The crimes were allegedly committed during attacks on the villages and towns of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala in west Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004.

In early 2003, Mr. Harun was appointed head of the “Darfur Security desk,” where his main task was to manage and personally recruit, fund and arm the Janjaweed militia – forces that would ultimately number in the tens of thousands. He is currently Sudan's state humanitarian affairs minister.

According to the ICC, Mr. Harun said during a public meeting that as the head of the “Darfur Security desk,” he had been given “all the power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur for the sake of peace and security.”

Mr. Kushayb, an “Aqid al Oqada” (“colonel of colonels”) in west Darfur, was commanding thousands of Janjaweed militia by mid-2003 and the prosecution’s evidence shows that he issued orders to the militia and armed forces to victimize the civilian populations through mass rape and other sexual offences, killings, torture, inhumane acts, pillaging and looting of residences and marketplaces, the displacement of the resident community and other alleged criminal acts.

ICC judges will now review the evidence and decide whether the two individuals committed the alleged crimes and, if so, how best to ensure their appearance in court.

Today’s announcement comes amid increasing international efforts to stop the daily bloodshed in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003. In total, some 4 million civilians need assistance to survive in the region, which is roughly the size of France and situated in the west of Sudan.

On Sunday, the UN’s top emergency official in Sudan visited several sites in north Darfur, along with representatives from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator, Manuel Aranda da Silva, found in particular that water and health were the most pressing needs as he went to Deribat and Rowatta, where he also highlighted the increasing insecurity faced by humanitarian workers in the region.

The group also met field commanders of rebel groups, who said they were committed to securing the safety of humanitarian operations.

Separately, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said today that over 100 people have been killed since 10 February in Kass in southern Darfur, because of fighting between tribal groups, which has also forced over 900 families of mainly women and children to flee for safety. Last month alone violence throughout Darfur forced around 46,000 more people to flee their homes, OCHA.