UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 8 -- Sudan on Tuesday challenged a U.N. proposal to have the International Criminal Court try those accused of atrocities in Darfur, and it pledged to establish a national war crimes court to handle such cases.
A U.N. commission of inquiry concluded in a Jan. 31 report that Khartoum and a government-sponsored Arab militia engaged in "widespread and systematic" abuses against Darfur's black civilians that may constitute crimes against humanity. It signaled the start of a push to dissuade the U.N. Security Council from authorizing a court to try Sudanese accused of war crimes.
Ali Osman Muhammad Taha, first vice president of Sudan, said his country's legal system could handle inquiries.
(Chip East -- Reuters)
_____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
Lack of Access Muddies Death Toll in Darfur (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Girls From Sudan's War Now Fight to Learn (The Washington Post, Feb 4, 2005)
U.N. Report on Sudan Draws Mixed Reaction (The Washington Post, Feb 2, 2005)
U.N. Panel Finds No Genocide in Darfur but Urges Tribunals (The Washington Post, Feb 1, 2005)
At Least 18 Dead After Sudanese Forces Quell Protest (The Washington Post, Jan 31, 2005)
"We believe the Sudanese legal system and judiciary are professional enough and able to do justice," Sudanese First Vice President Ali Uthman Muhammad Taha told reporters.
Taha spoke after he and John Garang, leader of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, met with the Security Council. The two appealed to the international community to forgive Sudan's debt and to donate money and thousands of peacekeepers to help implement an agreement to end the country's 22-year civil war. The government signed the pact with the rebels in southern Sudan on Jan. 9, but it is still fighting rebels in the western province of Darfur.
Garang also urged the 15-nation council to exercise caution in pursuing war crimes prosecutions in Darfur before peace has been established. "The practice of impunity cannot be let go," he told reporters after the council meeting. "But I want to focus on the immediate problem, and the immediate problem is to achieve peace in Darfur."
Garang proposed sending 10,000 rebel troops from southern Sudan to help end rights violations and restore peace. He said that Khartoum and the African Union, which has deployed more than 1,000 troops in Darfur, should each provide 10,000 to the effort.
The Bush administration, which opposes a role for the Hague-based International Criminal Court, dismissed Taha's proposal for a national court.
Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, met with Security Council members Tuesday to advance a U.S. proposal to establish an African war crimes court in Arusha, Tanzania, to try Sudanese accused of the worst atrocities in Darfur.
In addition, Secretary General Kofi Annan accused Sudan in a report of failing to meet long-standing Security Council demands to arrest, disarm or prosecute the Arab militia responsible for war crimes in Darfur. Annan charged that the militia, known as Janjaweed, conducted a "scorched-earth campaign" that forced almost 2 million people from their homes.
"Disarmament and arrest of the perpetrators of these brutal acts is the single most important demand of the council and the clearest case of failure by the government to live up to its responsibility," Annan wrote.