U.N. Prosecutor Gathering Evidence of Darfur Crimes
13 December 2005
Witness protection a key impediment, Security Council told
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent
United Nations -- Evidence gathered by investigators for the International Criminal Court (ICC) presents a picture of "particularly grave events involving high numbers of killings, mass rapes and other forms of extremely serious gender violence" in the Darfur region of Sudan that shows someone commanded and controlled the operations, the court's chief prosecutor says.
In a December 13 meeting with the Security Council, Luis Moreno Ocampo, ICC chief prosecutor, said that because the security situation in Darfur remains volatile, establishing an effective witness protection program in Sudan has not been possible. Thus, he has been able to interview only witnesses who are living outside Sudan.
More than 100 potential witnesses in 17 countries have been identified, and investigators are screening hundreds of additional witnesses in an effort to gather evidence, Ocampo reported. Witness protection in Darfur is the responsibility of the Sudanese government and the African Union peacekeepers there, he said, but that protection has not been possible so far.
Conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region has resulted in as many as 180,000 deaths and has displaced millions in the past three years.
In his second meeting with the council since the issue was sent to the ICC, the prosecutor said that he would be meeting with Sudanese government officials, judges and representatives of the African Union early in 2006. (See related article.)
No decisions have been made on indictments, Ocampo said. Those decisions will be made after a thorough analysis of all the evidence collected.
Council President Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom said Ocampo told the Security Council that "the nature of the attacks in Darfur demonstrated a degree of coordination, degree of strategic operation which implied that someone was in command and control of that operation."
The prosecutor's intention "is to ascertain who it was and hold them responsible," Jones Parry told journalists after the meeting. "He would pursue the [chain of command] until he found whoever might have been ultimately responsible. We rely on the prosecutor to follow his responsibilities."
Jones Parry said that the Security Council "repeats again the need to end impunity in Darfur, to prevent the atrocities occurring, to prevent their recurrence and then ensure that those involved are brought to justice." The Security Council adopted a resolution March 31 to refer the cases of those accused of murder, rape and pillage in Darfur to the International Criminal Court. (See related article.)
The Security Council expects Sudan to cooperate closely with Ocampo, "especially on the question of access to witnesses," he said.
The Security Council, Jones Parry said, "will judge the government of Sudan by its actions. If it becomes apparent that the prosecutor is not receiving the cooperation we expect from the government, then ... we will need to respond to that."
"In general terms, we look to close cooperation with ICC and African Union and that there will be enough cooperation on the ground so that there will be protection of witnesses where necessary and the process of the investigation should unfold," the council president said.
(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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