ICC to start a case against top Sudanese officials

Published on Thursday 29th May 2008

The Hague: The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Friday he will open a case against senior members of Sudan's government as Khartoum has failed to arrest a minister he indicted over crimes in Darfur.

Luis Moreno Ocampo said he would brief the U.N. Security Council on June 5 about a new Darfur case he planned to bring "in the near future" and called on its members to push Sudan to cooperate during a visit by the Council to Khartoum next week.

 "Justice in Darfur is a key element for lasting peace," he told foreign journalists in The Hague. "It's time to put their (Security Council) message into reality."

He said he would give the Security Council a date when he planned to issue indictments against the senior ministers, who have yet to be named, Reuters report said.

Judges at the ICC, set up in 2002 in The Hague as the world's first permanent court to try individuals for war crimes, issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese suspects in April last year, but Khartoum has refused to hand them over.

The wanted men are Ahmed Haroun, former state minister of interior, and militia commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb. Haroun has since been made state minister of humanitarian affairs, responsible for refugees.

They are suspected of inciting murder, rape, and torture, as well as the forced displacement of villagers in Darfur.

"The lack of arrest of Haroun is affecting the humanitarian and security situation," Moreno Ocampo said. "He's still a minister. Who's keeping him in power? Who has criminal responsibility at a higher level than Haroun?"

Members of the U.N. Security Council will visit Sudan's Darfur region next week, where an estimated 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since government forces and allied militias tried to crush a revolt in 2003.

They will also visit the headquarters of U.N.-African Union peacekeepers, the full deployment of which Moreno Ocampo said Haroun's continued presence was holding up. Just over 9,000 troops and police have been deployed out of a targeted 26,000.

Moreno Ocampo said Haroun was also making life in camps housing displaced Darfuris unbearable, including by arresting local leaders. He said women pushed their babies into the vehicle of his researchers to try to get them out of a camp.

The prosecutor said the fact the Security Council had asked the ICC to investigate the situation in Darfur underlined the court's growing significance and predicted that even sceptics like Russia and the United States might eventually join.

"I believe in 50 years all of them will have signed," he said. "We are witnessing the beginning of a new era in which the world is saying: 'Enough: no more massive crimes'."

The court made its highest profile arrest on Saturday, of Congo's former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, and its first trial, of a Congolese militia leader, starts on June 23.