UN war crimes prosecutor calls for arrest of first Darfur suspects

7 June 2007
Luis Moreno-Ocampo briefs Security Council

Briefing the Security Council today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for the arrest of the two suspects wanted to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region.

Briefing the Security Council today, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called for the arrest of the two suspects wanted to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region.

Early last month, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Minister of State for the Interior of the Government of Sudan and currently Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.

“Acting together, they committed crimes against humanity and war crimes,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the 15-member Council.

The ICC’s investigation of the two men focuses primarily between 2003 and 2004 when the highest number of crimes were recorded.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo underscored that the Council and regional organizations – such as the African Union (AU) and the Arab League – must lead the effort to encourage Sudan to arrest the two men and surrender them to the ICC.

“The territorial State, the Sudan, has the legal obligation and the ability” to arrest and surrender the suspects to the ICC, the Prosecutor said.

Although “a degree of cooperation has been forthcoming” from the Sudanese Government, to date, it has refused to allow for the questioning of Mr. Kushayb and Mr. Harun, he told the Council. He said that he hopes that the Council can bring the issue up when it visits Khartoum on 17 June as part of its weeklong mission to the region.

“Today, the Security Council recognized the need to emphasize and [remind] the Sudanese authorities about their responsibility,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told reporters after the Council meeting.

A militia commander also known as the “colonel of colonels,” Mr. Kushayb “personally led militia/Janjaweed during attacks” on four villages, “presiding over summary executions and massive rapes,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told the Council.

Mr. Harun, who was appointed as Minister of State for the Interior and head of the “Darfur security desk” in 2003, “recruited militia/Janjaweed and incited them to violence with full knowledge that they, often in the course of joint attacks with the Sudanese Army, would commit crimes against the civilian population,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said.

Given that Mr. Harun is currently his country’s Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told reporters that it is “unacceptable” that “these people who were his victims are in his hands.”

In its 27 April decision, the ICC determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects are criminally responsible for 51 counts of crimes against humanity, including persecution, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel treatment.

“The key is their arrest and surrender,” Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said to the Council, adding that his Office is finalizing its preparations for pre-trial proceedings against the two men.

The Prosecutor said that, in addition to the Darfur investigation which has been going on for two years, his Office is also looking into current crimes committed by all sides.

He said that the Sudanese Government has launched “indiscriminate and disproportionate” air strikes in Darfur from January through April. The ICC has also heard reports that women who are internally displaced have been raped when venturing outside their camps. It has also heard about local clashes which in part have been allegedly motivated to reward people collaborating with the Militia/Janjaweed.

Outside Sudan, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said the ICC is also looking into the spillover effects in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

In eastern Chad, he said that his Office has compiled information on reported attacks on refugee camps and in the villages of Tiero and Marena in March. There have been reported incursions by militia/Janjaweed from Sudan, as well as the presence of Sudanese rebels in Chad and Chadian rebels in Sudan.

Meanwhile in CAR, the ICC opened an investigation last month into crimes – including massive rapes – allegedly committed between 2002 and 2003.

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo voiced alarm that aid workers have been assaulted and beaten and their vehicles have been hijacked, stressing that attacks on humanitarian personnel are “prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitute a war crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

He also expressed concern for attacks on UN peacekeepers in Sudan and AU troops. In the period from early February to early May of this year alone, 11 AU peacekeepers and police officers have been killed and five seriously wounded.

In a related development, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) announced that the situation in Darfur last month was characterized by forced civilian movement given increasing insecurity, rising tensions in camps, surging numbers of the displaced and increasing targeted violence against aid operations.

Almost 140,000 people have become internally displaced since the start of the year, with at least 10,000 newly displaced in May, according to UNMIS.

The Mission also called attention to the rising use of physical and mental violence against non-governmental organizations’ compounds and staff.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson is arriving in New York today and is scheduled to brief the Security Council tomorrow on his joint efforts with the AU to revive the peace process, according to Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson.

The UN and AU are expected to meet with Sudanese authorities in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on 11 and 12 June regarding the planned hybrid force, and the Security Council will hear a briefing on the meeting’s outcome prior to its departure for Africa on 14 June.


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