/ 26 April 2008

Global court could indict more over Darfur

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court warned Sudan on Saturday he will move against more officials soon if Khartoum fails to arrest suspects he has sought for a year over crimes in Darfur.

Luis Moreno Ocampo told Reuters in an interview he planned to present evidence against new suspects to ICC judges before the end of the year if Khartoum does not hand over two suspects by the time he reports to the United Nations Security Council on June 5.

Judges at the ICC, set up in 2002 in the Hague as the world’s first permanent court to try individuals for war crimes, issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese suspects on April 27 last year, but Khartoum has refused to hand them over.

The wanted men are Ahmed Haroun, former state minister of interior, and militia commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

They are suspected of inciting murder, rape, and torture, as well as the forced displacement of villagers in Darfur. Haroun has since been made state minister of humanitarian affairs.

”They have 2,5-million people displaced in camps, full of fear and they put Haroun in charge of them. Imagine that your rapist is your teacher. It is another way to keep them under attack,” Moreno-Ocampo said in a telephone interview.

”Each morning I wake up and I think about those people,” he said. ”The question is who put him [Haroun] there. Whose instructions is he following? The lack of arrest is interesting evidence for us … Who promised immunity?”

More than two million Darfuris have fled their homes since a revolt in 2003 by mostly non-Arab rebels which government forces and allied militias have tried to crush in a conflict that international experts say has claimed as many as 300 000 lives.

Fascinating not frustrating

Asked how many new suspects he might name, Moreno-Ocampo said it would depend on the evidence, noting his other cases involved up to five people: ”We are trying to define who is the most responsible for the current situation.”

His office is also investigating alleged rebel attacks against peacekeepers, but said that could take longer to come to court because it was harder to establish who was in command.

The Security Council asked the ICC to investigate the situation in Darfur in early 2005 in what was seen as a major victory for the new court given that the United States was hostile to its work but refrained from vetoing the referral.

On Friday, a group of human rights organisations launched a ”Justice for Darfur” campaign, calling on the Security Council, regional organisations and individual governments to demand that Sudan cooperate with the court and arrest the two suspects.

”The Sudanese government has shown blatant disregard both for the authority of the Security Council and for the victims of their brutality,” said Richard Dicker from Human Rights Watch. ”So far, Sudan has faced no consequences for this brazen snubbing of the court and the council”.

Along with Darfur, the court is also investigating war crimes in Uganda, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, it has three people in custody, all Congolese militia leaders, and its first trial should start soon.

Moreno-Ocampo rejected suggestions the court was moving too slowly in the Darfur inquiry and other cases and said his experience as a prosecutor of Argentina’s military dictatorship taught him to be optimistic that the powerful will face justice.

”Things change. People in power lose power,” he said. ”We can wait but people in the camps cannot wait for a solution.”

”It’s not frustrating. It’s fascinating. We have transformed an idea into an operational institution in five years,” he said. ”We are changing the way the world deals with violence.” – Reuters