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First Darfur War Crimes Suspects Announced

BY Admin  February 27, 2007 at 1:40 PM EDT

Ahmed Harun, one of the war crimes suspects

Ahmed Harun, the former Sudan interior minister in charge of Darfur, and militia leader Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, known as Ali Kushayb, are accused of 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2003 and 2004.

The two have not been indicted, but the prosecutors say they have evidence the accused were tied to the pro-government Janjaweed militias, which the United Nations blames for the worst atrocities in Darfur.

Around 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government.

Ali Kushayb was a militia leader for the Janjaweed and Harun, currently the Sudanese humanitarian affairs minister, helped recruit and arm the militia, according to the 94-page prosecution document filed with the court’s judges.

The offenses were committed against civilians during attacks on villages in West Darfur, and include mass murder, rape and torture.

“[The attackers] targeted civilian residents based on the rationale that they were supporters of the rebel forces,” ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.

Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC judges to issue summonses for the suspects, but Sudan has rejected the international court’s jurisdiction.

“We are not concerned with, nor do we accept, what the International Criminal Court prosecutor has opted for,” Mohammed Ali al-Mardi, Sudan’s justice minister, said in Khartoum.

Sudan is not a signatory to the convention that created the international court and has repeatedly warned it will not accept any ICC indictments.

Sudan has said it is conducting its own investigation, and the ICC is only supposed to prosecute when national courts are unwilling or unable. However, Sudan’s investigation has been slow, and rights groups say it is mostly for show.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the ICC prosecutors’ evidence is a good start, but more needs to be done.

“We think it’s an important first step. It could be the beginning of the end of impunity in Darfur,” Geraldine Mattioli of Human Rights Watch told the Associated Press. “But we hope to see more and we certainly encourage the prosecutor to continue investigations and go higher up the chain of command.”

The new accusations come after a two-year investigation, launched at the request of the U.N. Security Council. The ICC prosecutors are continuing to investigate other suspects.