International Criminal Court: 2 Face Trials Over Darfur AtrocitiesNew York Times
THE HAGUE, Feb. 27 - International prosecutors on Tuesday designated their first suspects in atrocities in the Sudanese region of Darfur, selecting a government minister and a militia commander to bring to trial.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said he had presented close to 100 pages of evidence and asked the judges to issue summonses for the two men, Ahmad Harun and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman.
Mr. Harun, currently Sudan's deputy minister for humanitarian affairs, was a senior government official in charge of the military and police and intelligence forces in Darfur as civilians were killed, raped and chased from their homes in the region, the prosecutors said.
His "unlimited" budget, the prosecutors said, allowed him to arm and finance Mr. Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, the militia leader who led fighters in a brutal campaign of violence against civilians. "We have focused on some of the most serious incidents," Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said.
The announcement came after 20 months of criminal investigation into Darfur's enormous bloodshed and humanitarian disaster. Human rights activists described the two suspects as powerful but not among Sudan's top leaders.
At a news conference in The Hague, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo declined to say whether the most important figures in Sudan's political or military hierarchy would be held accountable for the mass killing, looting, rape and general devastation in Darfur, which has uprooted more than two and a half million people, according to the United Nations.
The prosecution is believed to be investigating crimes by the government, the militias aligned with the government and the rebel forces they oppose.
Court officials said the prosecutor favored a strategy of focusing on specific events to which he can link individuals, rather than pursuing broad, ambitious indictments. He may also be following the path of other war crimes tribunals, building a base of evidence with lesser cases before moving up the chain of command. But the arrival of any Sudanese suspects at the court is far from assured.
In Khartoum, the Sudanese minister of justice immediately said the nation did not recognize the court's jurisdiction, did not intend to hand over anyone and would try any cases itself. Sudan has told Mr. Moreno-Ocampo that it has already arrested 14 people for human rights violations, including Mr. Rahman. Even so, human rights groups said most of those arrested in Sudan have been low-level fighters.
The prosecutors' decision, and the reaction from Khartoum, raised the basic difficulty the court faces: how to investigate, let alone put on trial, officials from sitting governments.
The International Criminal Court, embraced by 104 countries but independent from the United Nations, has a broad mandate to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity. But it has no police to enforce its summonses or arrest warrants, leaving it dependent on the very governments it may be investigating, as in the case of Sudan.
Such issues have confronted United Nations war crimes tribunals for a decade, with prosecutors for Uganda's genocide and the wars in the Balkans still begging for the arrests of important suspects.
For the first Darfur case - the court is handling cases in three other African nations - the prosecution has focused on violence in four villages and towns, starting in the summer of 2003.
In April of that year, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said, rebels attacked Al Fasher airport in Darfur, destroying planes, killing government soldiers and kidnapping the Sudanese air force commander. That was a turning point in the conflict, the prosecutor said, and led to intense recruiting of Arab militiamen, or janjaweed, who have been aligned with the Arab-dominated government.
The janjaweed focused on the civilian population, he said, on the rationale that they were supporters of the rebels.
"This strategy became the justification for the mass murder, summary execution and mass rape of civilians," Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said.
At the time, Mr. Harun was the minister of state for the interior, and oversaw the Darfur Security Desk.
Mr. Harun was seen traveling with well guarded boxes of cash and was observed distributing money, weapons and ammunition throughout Darfur, according to the prosecutor's statement, and worked closely with the militia leader, Mr. Rahman.
On one occasion, in early August 2003, Mr. Harun arrived by helicopter in the Darfur town of Mukjar as janjaweed militia were moving in and gave a public speech. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Harun said that since the children of the Fur tribe had become rebels, the Fur people and their possessions had become booty for the militia. Immediately upon his departure, the janjaweed "looted the entire town," the prosecution statement said.
Mr. Rahman personally led the attack on Mukjar and three other villages and towns, the statement said. By mid-2003 he was commanding thousands of janjaweed. His forces pillaged and burned homes and shops, killed hundreds of people and tied women to trees and repeatedly raped them. According to the prosecution, Mr. Rahman took part in a number of summary executions.
He was arrested in Sudan in November and is being held on a different set of human rights violations.
Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said his staff tried to meet with him, and with Mr. Harun, in recent weeks, but the Sudanese government prevented it.
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