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ICC Prosecutor Says He Will Next Go After Darfur Rebels

By Margaret Besheer
United Nations
17 July 2008

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court says he will pursue charges against rebel groups that attacked African Union peacekeepers in Darfur last September, killing 10 of them. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Just days after bringing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sudan's president, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Thursday he would next seek charges against rebel leaders in the war-torn Darfur region.

Moreno-Ocampo said he has information about the names of two Darfur rebel commanders who were allegedly responsible for the attack at Haskinita in south Darfur last year that killed 10 African Union soldiers. He called on the rebel groups to cooperate with the court.

"I think it is a good opportunity for me to urge the rebels -- the rebels cannot commit crimes, they have to control their people, and they have to help the Court," said Moreno-Ocampo. "In fact, the Security Council called on all the actors - they have to help the court -- provide it evidence against those who committed the attacks in Haskinita and even arrest them."

He added that all attacks against peacekeepers come under his jurisdiction, including the July 8 one, that killed seven peacekeepers from the joint AU-U.N. force known as UNAMID.

In addition to charging President Omar al-Bashir this week, the chief prosecutor won arrest warrants last year against two Sudanese in connection with crimes in Darfur. One suspect, Ahmad Haroun, is a minister in President Bashir's government. The other, Ali Kushayb, is a former Janjaweed militia commander. Sudan does not recognize the court, and has not handed over either man.

Moreno-Ocampo says President Bashir's public statements saying he would not hand over Haroun because he was following his orders implicate the Sudanese leader.

"Bashir said publicly in 2007 that Haroun was following his instructions," he said. "That he would never hand over Haroun because Haroun was following his instructions. So it is like a confession, a public confession, what he did. So I cannot sit on my evidence. I have to present the evidence to the judges, and that is what I did."

But some Western diplomats have suggested that, if President Bashir cooperates with the court and hands over Haroun and Kushayb, the court could set aside its charges against him. When asked if that could happen, Moreno-Ocampo replied, "ask the judges."

Moreno-Ocampo was at U.N. headquarters Thursday to participate in events marking the 10th anniversary of the Rome Statute, which created the court.

The ICC is an independent, permanent court based at The Hague, that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern -- namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Currently 107 countries have ratified the treaty recognizing the court. The United States has not signed the treaty.

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