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International Court Issues First Darfur Arrest Warrants

02 May 2007

The International Criminal Court in The Hague says it has issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and a Janjaweed militia leader suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur. But as Lauren Comiteau reports from Amsterdam, the Sudanese government says it will not turn over the two men.

The arrest warrants name Ahmad Haroun, Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman - also called Ali Kushayb.

The ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocamo asked judges to issue warrants for the two men earlier this year, after concluding an almost two-year investigation into the Darfur conflict. The United Nations estimates that some 200,000 people have died during the four-year conflict and two million more have fled their homes.

The two men are wanted for 92 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges include torture, rape and murder. The alleged crimes, all against civilians, took place in four towns and villages in western Darfur between 2003 and 2004. In issuing the arrest warrants, judges said there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that both men knew of the crimes and either encouraged them or, in the case of Ali Kushayb, personally participated in them.

Before becoming humanitarian minister, Ahmad Haroun was Sudan's interior minister and had responsibility, as head of the Darfur security desk, for recruiting and funding the Janjaweed militia. The militia is accused of helping the Sudanese Armed Forces attack villages believed to be loyal to rebel forces.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court accuse Haroun of providing funds to the Janjaweed and implementing policies that led to mass rape and mass murder against people who were known not to be participating in the conflict. Prosecutors also allege that Haroun personally delivered weapons to the militia group, and that he publicly stated that, as head of the Darfur security desk, he had the authority to kill or pardon anyone he chose in Darfur for the sake of peace and security.

As for Kushayb, the Janjaweed militia leader, prosecutors call him the "colonel of colonels." They say he commanded thousands of Janjaweed militia in Western Darfur and personally participated in attacks, including inspecting a group of naked women before they were tied to trees and raped. He is also accused of the execution of 32 men whose bodies were later found in the bushes.

The court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, says that now that arrest warrants have been issued, Sudan must respect them and arrest the two suspects. But a top official Sudanese official said Wednesday his country will not hand over the men to a court it does not recognize.

Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardi says his government is willing and able to try all perpetrators of offenses in Darfur, and for that reason the ICC has absolutely no right to assume any jurisdiction. The court and the U.N. Security Council disagree.

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