/ 4 June 2008

Prosecutor links Sudan’s govt to atrocities

The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court charges that ”the whole state apparatus” of Sudan is implicated in crimes against humanity in the Darfur region, linking the government directly with the feared janjaweed militia.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says in a report to the United Nations Security Council, obtained on Tuesday by the Associated Press (AP), that he has uncovered evidence showing ”high officials” in the Sudanese government are linked to many horrendous attacks in Darfur.

Atrocities include killing, torture and rape of civilians, even girls as young as five or six, with their parents forced to watch, the report says. It also says senior Sudanese officials are linked to the burning and looting of homes, bombing of schools and destroying of mosques.

The report does not identify any officials or present evidence of specific crimes. A spokesperson said Moreno-Ocampo would name names and present evidence to the Security Council next month.

”This is the first time he’s saying, well, there’s basically a mobilisation of the entire state apparatus,” said Florence Olara, a spokesperson for Moreno-Ocampo at the court in the Hague, The Netherlands.

”It’s based on evidence from ongoing investigations in Darfur. He’s looking at ongoing crimes, especially crimes targeting the 2,5-million already displaced in Darfur.”

Sudan’s ambassador to the United States, John Ukec Lueth Ukec, denied the accusations.

”Sudan is a government and it has to provide security, and it has used its forces for security,” he told AP. ”The government is exercising its right to protect the civilian people.”

The conflict in Darfur began in early 2003 when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government, charging the regime in Khartoum with discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions more have been forced from their homes.

Human rights groups and others have long accused Sudan’s government of arming the janjaweed Arab militias that terrorise Darfur villages — a charge Sudanese leaders deny.

The use of janjaweed militia to commit crimes, and then characterising them as ”autonomous bandits or self-defence militia … is part of the cover-up,” Moreno-Ocampo’s report says.

”These are evidence of a criminal plan based on the mobilisation of the whole state apparatus, including the armed forces, the intelligence services, the diplomatic and public information bureaucracies, and the justice system,” it says.

The report repeats his call, first made in December, for the Security Council to demand that Sudan’s government hand over two Sudanese men who have been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

They are Ahmed Harun, Sudan’s humanitarian affairs minister, who is accused of organising a system to recruit, fund and arm janjaweed militia to support the Sudanese military, and Ali Kushayb, known as a ”colonel of colonels” among the janjaweed.

The prosecutor says Harun’s ”continuing role” as minister of state for humanitarian affairs ”is indicative of the support he receives from superiors. But he is not alone”.

The treaty that created the court was intended to hold individuals, not entire states, responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. By accusing Sudan’s ”whole state apparatus” of helping shield criminals, the prosecutor is implicating some of the highest officials of the government.

William Pace, with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, an umbrella organisation of international groups, said the prosecutor is pressing the point that the highest officials of the Sudanese government have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

”When state officials protect those accused, they become complicit in the crimes under international law,” Pace said. ”They’ve promoted Harun to be a minister, so it’s implying that there’s direct leadership responsibilities — that the state apparatus is implicated in shielding Harun and the rebel leader from prosecution.”

Sudanese leaders have repeatedly warned the Security Council that trying to pressure Sudan over Harun and Kushayb would complicate international efforts to promote peace talks in Darfur and to deploy a 26 000-soldier joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to the region.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has accused Sudan of ”foot-dragging” on allowing the joint force to operate. Only about 9 000 troops have been deployed. – Sapa-AP