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June 5th, 2008 · No Comments

UN urged to demand arrest of Darfur war crime suspects

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo on Thursday pleaded with the UN Security Council to demand Khartoum arrest two Darfur war crimes suspects.

“I ask the Security Council to send a strong message to the government of Sudan … requesting that they arrest Ahmed Haroun and Ali Kosheib,” he told the 15-member council.

In May 2007, the ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, issued arrest warrants for Haroun, the Sudanese secretary of state for humanitarian affairs, and Janjaweed militia leader Kosheib.

They are charged with 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of murder, persecution, torture, rape and forcible displacement.

Moreno Ocampo said that at the council’s request his office would next month present “new evidence exposing the facts and identifying those most responsible for the “massive crimes” being perpetrated in Darfur.

Three years after the situation in the western Sudanese region was referred to the council, “massive crimes are still being committed in Darfur,” he said. “The evidence shows an organized campaign by Sudanese officials to attack civilians.”

“Girls are still being raped. Children die as their schools are bombed. The entire Darfur region is a crime scene.

“I have collected compelling evidence. The evidence will identify those most responsible for crimes against civilians in Darfur in particular the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa (ethnic groups),” he added.

After Moreno Ocampo’s presentation, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned about the reported lack of cooperation of the government of Sudan.”

He urged Khartoum “to comply with its international obligations and cooperate with the International Criminal Court.”

Moreno Ocampo said the council had the power to ensure the cooperation of Sudan, which as a UN member “has the legal obligation and the ability to arrest and surrender” the two suspects.

But Khartoum rejects the ICC’s jurisdiction, and has made it clear it will not hand over the two men.

Haroun was exonerated by an official Sudanese commission that investigated his time as deputy interior minister in charge of Darfur.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica circulated a non-binding statement in the council to increase the pressure on Khartoum to comply with a previous council resolution demanding cooperation with the ICC.

“The government of Sudan is toying with us, toying with human dignity, toying with the authority of this council,” Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno Ugarte told the council. “Enough appeasement, the time has passed to continue accommodating evil.”

But a Western diplomat said the statement would not be adopted until the outcome of a Security Council mission currently touring Darfur.

In Sudan, a member of the delegation, France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, Wednesday warned the European Union was willing to consider sanctions against Khartoum if it refuses to surrender the two men.

Richard Dicker, an official with New York-based Human Rights Watch, told AFP that in Khartoum Wednesday that Ripert and British counterpart John Sawers both sent “the signal that the days of absolute impunity for the horrific crimes in Darfur are winding down.”

“I would expect that the Sudanese leadership are astute enough to smell the coffee. The message is that the council is concerned about bringing to justice before the ICC those accused by its prosecutors of mass slaughter of civilians, rape as a weapon of war and ethnic cleansing,” he added.

Dicker said Moreno Ocampo was likely to announce new arrest warrants for Darfur war crimes next month.

“The message needs to be heard in Khartoum that this (ICC) investigation is going up all the way up the chain of command,” he warned.

“Those in the (upper) echelons of the Sudanese government ought to be curtailing their travel plans because they may find themselves the focus of an international arrest warrant,” Dicker said.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime and state-backed Janjaweed militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.

Up to 300,000 people may have died from the combined effects of war, famine and disease, according to UN humanitarian chief John Holmes. Sudan claims the death toll from the war does not exceed 10,000.

Tags: darfur

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