/ 20 June 2008

EU leaders threaten Sudan with sanctions

European Union leaders on Friday threatened Sudan with sanctions if it does not cooperate fully with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court by handing over Darfur war-crimes suspects.

Sudan does not recognise the Hague-based court and has refused to hand over a government minister accused of atrocities and a militia leader facing charges of murder, rape and forced expulsions in the Darfur region, where a long, bloody conflict has killed more than 200 000 people.

Leaders at an EU summit issued a declaration backing the work of the court and demanding that Sudan take action on the suspects. It says the leaders remain ”deeply concerned” over Sudan’s lack of cooperation with the international court and ”calls on the government of Sudan to work constructively” with it, the EU and the international community.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press, said the leaders will call on their foreign ministers to consider a freezing of assets and draw up a travel-ban list of Sudanese officials if Sudan fails to cooperate.

The leaders called for ”additional measures in case of lack of full cooperation with the UN and other institutions”, including the international court. They did not give a deadline, however, for new measures.

The EU already has an arms embargo on Sudan and visa bans on a number of Sudanese officials. EU officials have acknowledged that added sanctions could do little to force the Sudanese government to change its position.

Ali Sadiq, Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said the country has survived similar measures by other countries for more than a decade.

International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has been hard-pressed in trying to persuade Sudan to hand over those on his wanted list, and this week asked the EU to help increase pressure on Khartoum.

Moreno-Ocampo has pointed to a Sudanese government minister who is wanted in connection with atrocities in Darfur in 2003/04 and who Moreno-Ocampo says is still orchestrating attacks on refugees fleeing violence there.

He said Sudan’s failure to arrest the minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, who was responsible for security in Darfur, indicates the government’s complicity in attacks on some of the 2,5-million civilians who are believed to have been forced out of their homes and into camps.

Moreno-Ocampo has issued arrest warrants for the minister and militia leader Ali Kushayb, who faces 51 charges, including murder, rape and forced expulsions in 2003 and 2004.

The new threat of added sanctions is the latest EU attempt to force Sudan to help end the Darfur conflict, which started in 2003 and has uprooted 2,5-million people.

Fighting began when ethnic African tribes rebelled against what they consider decades of neglect and discrimination by the Arab-dominated government. Sudan’s government is accused of retaliating by unleashing a militia of Arab nomads known as the Janjaweed — a charge it denies.

The EU has sent 3 700 troops to help protect 300 000 Sudanese refugees and 187 000 Chadians uprooted by the conflict in eastern Chad and neighbouring Sudan’s Darfur. The force is also protecting Darfur refugees who have fled to the Central African Republic. — Sapa-AP