UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 -- The Bush administration on Thursday proposed establishing an African war crimes tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, to prosecute perpetrators of atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, U.S. and European diplomats said.
Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, outlined the plan here in closed-door meetings with key U.N. members, including Britain and Tanzania. He proposed that the new court, which would be at the headquarters of the U.N.-run Rwandan war crimes tribunal, be administered by the African Union and the United Nations.
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Continuing Crisis
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
Annan Urges Action on Darfur at U.N. Commemoration of Holocaust (The Washington Post, Jan 25, 2005)
Guns Stop 'Crying' In Southern Sudan (The Washington Post, Jan 24, 2005)
U.S., Europe Debate Venue for Darfur Trials (The Washington Post, Jan 21, 2005)
Sudan, Southern Rebels Sign Accord to End Decades of War (The Washington Post, Jan 10, 2005)
Powell Sidesteps Question About Sudan Genocide (The Washington Post, Jan 9, 2005)
The Bush administration has charged that Khartoum and a government-backed Arab militia committed genocide in the Darfur region, displacing more than 1.8 million black African villagers and killing tens of thousands more.
The Security Council is awaiting a lengthy report next week by a U.N. commission investigating whether genocide or crimes against humanity have occurred in Darfur. The report was presented to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday.
Security Council diplomats said the United States is expected to face fierce opposition to its plan from other Security Council members who want the Hague-based International Criminal Court to take on these cases. Britain, France, Denmark and other council members have told the administration that the establishment of a court would be too costly and would take too long. U.N. members are already obliged to pay more than $540 million over the next two years to cover the costs of war crimes tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
"For the court in Rwanda, we pay $1 million," said Cesar Mayoral, Argentina's U.N. ambassador. "My government is not very happy about increasing that to cover the costs of another court when we already have one."
The Bush administration opposes the international court on the grounds that a foreign prosecutor may be able to conduct frivolous investigations into alleged war crimes by American nationals.
Stuart Holliday, the U.S. representative to the United Nations for political affairs, said that the Bush administration is committed to holding Sudanese war criminals responsible. He said the commission of inquiry will present "very compelling and descriptive evidence of atrocities" in Sudan.
"Our position on the International Criminal Court is well known, and our position on accountability for atrocities is also well known," Holliday said.
The war crimes debate at the United Nations coincides with a rise in violence in Darfur that has displaced thousands of civilians in recent weeks.
On Thursday, the United States and Britain leveled their sharpest criticism against Sudan in months, charging Khartoum and a government-backed militia of launching fresh attacks, including bombings, against villages in Darfur.
State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher accused the Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, of killing more than 100 people, mostly women and children, in an attack on one village.
"These attacks are completely reprehensible, and are to be condemned," Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in a statement.