Netherlands: The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and a janjaweed militia leader suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur.
The warrants were a crucial step toward bringing atrocities in the Sudanese province before a panel of international judges in The Hague. However, Sudanese authorities have in the past refused to arrest and turn over suspects to the court and it was unclear whether either suspect would surrender.
“As the territorial state, government of Sudan has a legal duty to arrest Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb,” Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement. “This is the International Criminal Court’s decision, and the government has to respect it.”
In February, Moreno-Ocampo named Harun, Sudan’s minister for humanitarian affairs, and Kushayb, a janjaweed militia leader, as suspects in a total of 51counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including the murder, rape, torture and persecution of civilians in Darfur.
Moreno-Ocampo said issuing of warrants underscored the strength of his case. “We completed an investigation under very difficult circumstances, from outside Darfur, and without exposing any of our witnesses,” he said. “We transformed their stories into evidence, and now judges have confirmed the strength of that evidence.”
Harun is currently in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi has said the Sudanese authorities conducted their own investigation into Harun’s activities and found “not a speck of evidence” against him.
The Sudanese government says it has arrested Kushayb pending an internal investigation, but several witnesses told the AP in Darfur that he was freely traveling from one Darfur town to another under police protection.
The atrocities allegedly were committed during attacks on four towns and villages in West Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004. Harun and Kushayb were part of a conspiracy to “persecute civilians they associated with rebels,” Moreno-Ocampo alleged following a 20-month investigation ordered by UN Security Council in 2005.
Their methods were “indiscriminate attacks against civilian population, murder, rape, inhumane acts, cruel treatment, unlawful imprisonment, pillaging, forcible transfer and destruction of property,” according to a 94-page prosecution document outlining the allegations and seeking a judicial order for the men to be handed over to the Hague-based court.
Three planes from the Sudanese Air Force also bombed the town in the same incident on Aug. 15, 2003, said the 58-page ruling. Fighting in Darfur has left more than 200,000 dead and displaced 2.5 mn in a campaign the US has called genocide.
Although human rights groups have long made such claims, the latest announcement marks the first time a panel of international judges have issued a ruling on the strength of the evidence. Sudan does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction but the 2005 UN Security Council resolution that triggered the Darfur investigation calls on Khartoum and all other groups in the conflict to cooperate fully with the court and the prosecutor.