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03 May 2007 18:35
Sudan said on Thursday it has found no evidence to support the charges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) against a government minister suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur.
Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Al-Mardi said a probe into the activities of Ahmed Haroun, Sudan’s state humanitarian affairs minister—a post below full ministerial level—found he had no direct link to any military operations in the troubled western region.
Haroun was previously former state minister of the interior.
On Wednesday the international court said it had issued arrest warrants for Haroun and militia commander Ali Muhammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb. Sudan has said it will not hand the men over.
“He [Haroun] ...
has nothing to do with the armed forces, or the military operations carried out by the armed forces, the popular defence force or the police,” Mardi told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Alex Vines, Africa analyst at Chatham House in London, said the warrants showed intent and would add pressure on Sudan to accept a large United Nations force in Darfur to support the under-funded 7Â 000-strong African Union mission.
“It is more about diplomatic signals,” Vines told Reuters.
He said even if Sudan accepts the UN force of more than 20Â 000 troops and police, arresting war-crimes suspects in Darfur “will still be something very difficult to execute.”
In February Sudan said it would try Kushayb on unspecified charges related to Darfur, but his trial was delayed in March. Mardi declined to comment on when the trial would the resume, saying it was up to the Sudanese judiciary to decide.
Asked about Kushayb’s whereabouts, Mardi said: “In prison.”
ICC prosecutors named the men in February as the first suspects in their investigations into the conflict. At least 200Â 000 people have been killed since the battles flared in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government.
Sudan countered the rebellion by arming militias, who have been accused of atrocities in the conflict. Khartoum denies arming so-called Janjaweed militia, calling them outlaws.
ICC prosecutors said Haroun conspired with Kushayb, allegedly a Janjaweed commander who led attacks in which dozens were killed, to commit the crimes.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Wednesday the Sudanese government had a “legal duty” to arrest the two suspect. Khartoum says the Hague-based court has no jurisdiction over Sudanese citizens.—Reuters
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