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05 April 2005

War Crimes Tribunal Given Names of Darfur Suspects

United Nations turns over material relating to war crimes in Sudan

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has received sealed documents naming 51 people suspected by an independent U.N. commission of enquiry of committing war crimes in Darfur.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo received the documents from Secretary-General Kofi Annan April 5 at U.N. headquarters.  A few hours earlier the prosecutor's office in The Hague also received from the High Commissioner for Human Rights thousands of pages of the evidentiary material collected by the same commission, the U.N. International Commission of Inquiry, which investigated whether genocide and other war crimes had occurred in Darfur.

"I call for partners to do my job from independent citizens all over the world to governments, the African Union -- especially the African Union -- and the United Nations," Ocampo told journalists after his private meeting with the secretary-general.  "As the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, it is my duty in this common task to investigate the crimes and to respect the interests of the victims."

Ocampo said that before his investigation starts he will "have to assess the crimes and the admissibility of the cases."

"I will analyze the commission documents and gather all existing information," he said.  "I urge states and organizations with information on Darfur to provide it to my office."

In addition, the prosecutor said, he will assess Sudan's national proceedings.

The Sudanese authorities report they have begun investigations; however, the commission of inquiry concluded that the Sudanese justice system "is unable and unwilling to address the situation in Darfur."

Ocampo said that he "will carefully and independently assess" the Sudanese proceedings and "closely monitor ongoing crimes in Darfur as well as efforts to prevent and stop these atrocities."

"We all have a common task to protect life, ending the culture of impunity," the prosecutor said.

On March 31 the U.N. Security Council voted to refer the issue of war crimes in Darfur to the ICC as recommended by the commission of inquiry.

In January the five-member commission reported that "a body of reliable information indicates that war crimes may have been committed on a large scale, at times even as part of a plan or a policy.

"There is also a wealth of credible material which suggests that criminal acts were committed as part of widespread or systematic attacks directed against the civilian population.  In the opinion of the commission, therefore, these may amount to crimes against humanity," the report said.

The commission report, which is more than 150 pages, details atrocities committed by the government of Sudan, its Jingaweit militia and other local militias in Darfur that have forced more than 1.8 million people to flee their homes and left tens of thousands dead since 2003.  The commission had turned over the 51 names under seal to the secretary-general with the recommendation that it be handed over to "a competent prosecutor" such as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  It was being held by the High Commissioner for Human Rights for safekeeping until the Security Council determined who would prosecute, which it did March 31.  The information was not made public so as not to interfere with the legal process and to protect witnesses.

Ocampo said: "The commission reported there were mass killings of innocent civilians, systematic rape of girls and women, and the burning of homes and families.  To protect life, the international community has joined together to end impunity in Darfur."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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