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24 Feb 2008 09:41
Nine months after the first arrest warrants were issued for those suspected of being behind atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region, the chief international prosecutor believes he has the masterminds in his sights.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has vowed to target the most senior people behind the violence and says that peace will only be possible in troubled Darfur if arrests are made and those responsible are brought to justice.
He issued a warrant last May for the arrest of Sudan’s Secretary of State for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Harun, but despite a United Nations resolution requiring Khartoum to comply with the court, Harun is still at large.
“If Harun is not arrested and removed, there will be no justice, no peace in Darfur,” Moreno-Ocampo said in a telephone interview from his native Argentina on Friday. He said arresting Harun “is the condition for any solution in Darfur”.
The prosecutor also announced new investigations into crimes against refugees in the region blighted by five years of civil war after ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-dominated regime in February 2003.
At least 200 000 people have died in the conflict and more than two million have fled their homes, according to UN figures, although the Khartoum government maintains that only 9 000 have been killed.
Moreno-Ocampo said he aims to hunt down the top echelons above Harun in the chain of command and behind the savage atrocities in the west of the country.
Asked for details of new arrest warrants, he replied: “The second case will be different.
Harun is instructed, he’s supported,” he added without elaborating.
The ICC, the first permanent tribunal set up to tackle war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, is based in The Hague and issued its first arrest warrants in May against Harun and Janjaweed militia chief Ali Kosheib.
Sudan has failed to hand over the two suspects, and in an act of defiance in November it appointed Harun to help overseeing the hybrid UN and Africa Union peacekeeping force currently deployed in Darfur.
“The most violent phase of the conflict in Darfur started in 2003, but it’s very important to realise that it is not over,” Moreno-Ocampo said. “It is still happening, before the very eyes of the international community,” he added, referring to reports of communities being displaced, bombing raids on villages and attacks on refugee camps.
He alleged Harun had played a “key role” in these incidents and was also responsible for slowing the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid.
“I think the Security Council has to do more for these mandates to be executed. I told them so,” said the prosecutor who in December drew up an indictment against Khartoum which he handed to the UN. “What is at stake is simply the survival of 2,5-million people. As a prosecutor I do my part. My responsibility is to the victims.”
He added: “Executing these arrest warrants is a test for the international community,” but did not answer questions about support from specific members of the UN Security Council.
Moreno-Ocampo pointed to frequent meetings held with regional powers, some of which are ICC members and others which are not, and regional groups such as the Arab League.
“It is important to show that we are not in any kind of conflict between the West and the Arab world,” he said. About Harun, he added: “For me as a prosecutor, I know Harun’s destiny is in court.”—Sapa-AFP
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