Sudanese Pair Accused of War Crimes
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor in The Hague outlined what he called operational, logistical and command links between Sudan's government in Khartoum and horse-mounted nomadic militias it recruited and bankrolled to carry out mass killings in the Darfur region, and he named a member of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's inner circle as a suspect in the atrocities.
In a 94-page prosecution document filed with the court's judges, Luis Moreno-Ocampo singled out Ahmad Muhammad Harun, now a state minister for humanitarian affairs who was state minister of the interior, along with Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman (also known as Ali Kushayb), a leader of the Darfur militia known as the Janjaweed, in a total of 51 crimes against humanity and war crimes. The filing marked the first accusations against named individuals as a prelude to a trial.
The chief prosecutor's accusations -- which fall short of a formal indictment -- come after a 21-month investigation that led to 60 countries and focused on the worst crimes committed in 2003 and 2004. The prosecutor also said his office was expanding its probe to look at current crimes, and in a teleconference with foreign journalists, he warned that other Sudanese government officials could be held responsible.
"We will exonerate no one," he said. "I did it with Harun, and I will follow the evidence wherever it is going."
The prosecutor described what he said was a pattern of incitement and recruitment that allowed the crimes to be committed. The U.S. government has labeled the killings in Darfur a genocide.
"The system produced massive crimes in Darfur, and evidence shows how Harun personally led the effort and how he and Kushayb joined together to commit the worst atrocities against villagers in Darfur," Moreno-Ocampo said. "They bear criminal responsibility for 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and we have very strong evidence."
In Khartoum, Sudanese Minister of Justice Mohammed Ali al-Mardi rebuffed the prosecutor's accusations as "lies" and said his government would not hand the men over for trial in response to Moreno-Ocampo's summons.
"We are not concerned with, nor do we accept, what the ICC prosecutor has opted for," Mardi said in Khartoum yesterday. He also said the two suspects named in The Hague had already been questioned.
"The Sudanese government will not allow any Sudanese to be tried and punished outside the national justice framework," the justice minister said.
Moreno-Ocampo confirmed that Rahman (Kushayb) had been in custody in Sudan since November. He said the Sudanese government had arrested Kushayb for incidents committed when he participated in the Popular Defense Forces, which the prosecutor said was integrated into the army.
But Moreno-Ocampo said the international court's case against Kushayb was different. "It is not just about Ali Kushayb but about how they worked together to attack civilian populations," he said.
Moreno-Ocampo's filing said, "The evidence shows that Ali Kushayb issued orders to militia/Janjaweed and armed forces to victimize the civilian populations through mass rape and other sexual offenses, killings, torture, inhumane acts, pillaging and looting of residences and market places, the displacement of the resident community" and other criminal acts.