03 May 2007

About Time?

The international criminal court has finally issued some arrest warrants over Darfur.

The International Herald Tribune, reports:

"Issuing its first arrest warrants on Darfur, the International Criminal Court said Wednesday there were "reasonable grounds to believe" that a Sudanese government minister and a janjaweed militia leader were responsible for the murderous 2003 attack on the town of Bindisi.

Sudan swiftly rejected the court's demand to arrest its humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmed Harun, and Ali Kushayb, known as a "colonel of colonels" among the janjaweed Arab militias who have terrorized Darfur villages.

"Our position is very, very clear — the ICC cannot assume any jurisdiction to judge any Sudanese outside the country," Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told The Associated Press in Khartoum.

The warrants on a total of 51 war crimes and crimes against humanity could be a crucial step toward bringing atrocities in the Sudanese province to international justice.

They also are likely to increase international pressure on the Sudanese government, which has resisted outside political intervention or enough military force to end the four-year slaughter in its western desert.

Richard Dicker of New York-based Human Rights Watch said it signaled that "the days of absolute impunity ... for horrible crimes in Darfur are winding down."

Driving home the ferocity of the conflict, the ICC judges cited the horrific onslaught on Bindisi on Aug. 15, 2003, one of four attacks cited in the prosecution's case between August 2003 and March 2004.

The incident started with Sudanese army troops telling villagers that the Arab janjaweed militia would be visiting a nearby village to collect an Islamic tax, said the 58-page judicial ruling.

The town, which had no rebel activity, was then "attacked by members of the Sudanese Armed Forces traveling in a number of camouflaged colored Land Cruisers mounted with heavy machine guns together with ... janjaweed on horse- and camel-back and some on foot," they wrote.

Four of the machine gun-toting four-wheel drive vehicles packed with troops drove into the village, backed up by more than 500 janjaweed.

"Three Sudanese Air Force planes also dropped bombs," the judges wrote. Sudanese troops and janjaweed then went "from house to house in search of the remaining residents and killing those they found."

Prosecutors said villagers were murdered, women and girls raped and homes pillaged by the government forces and militiamen.

Human rights groups and international observers have long reported such attacks in Darfur, but the decision to issue arrest warrants based on evidence gathered in a painstaking 20-month investigation marks the first time such allegations have been examined by such a high-ranking judicial body.

Sudan bristled at the allegations and warrants.

"Whatever the ICC does, is totally unrealistic, illegal, and repugnant to any form of international law," al-Mardi said.

ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and human rights groups said the Khartoum government was legally bound to arrest the men.

Harun is currently in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Al-Mardi has said a Sudanese investigation into Harun's activities found "not a speck of evidence" against him. The Sudanese government says it has arrested Kushayb pending an internal investigation, but several witnesses told the AP in Darfur that he was moving freely in Darfur under police protection.

Dicker, of Human Rights Watch, said the international community, especially China, must press Sudan to arrest the men and send them to The Hague.

Amnesty International suggested U.N. forces already in the country could enforce the arrests. The U.N. has a mission in southern Sudan following a peace treaty in an unrelated north-south war. But Sudan has refused to agree to a large U.N. deployment in Darfur, where an undermanned, under-equipped African Union peacekeeping force is struggling.

The prosecution accuses Harun and Kushayb of being part of a conspiracy to stamp out support for anti-government rebels by "indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population," including murder and rape.

Fighting in Darfur, which erupted in February 2003, has left more than 200,000 dead and displaced 2.5 million in a campaign the U.S. has called genocide.

The judges said evidence pointed to a "unified strategy" by Khartoum of using troops, police, intelligence services and the janjaweed to fight the rebels. Janjaweed fighters were trained at government camps, paid and armed by Sudanese authorities, and their leaders wore Sudanese Armed Forces or police uniforms, they said.

At the time of the crimes, Harun, considered part of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's inner circle, was an interior minister responsible for security in Darfur who helped recruit, arm and fund the janjaweed, prosecutors say. Kushayb was one of his main contacts in western Darfur."

Great news, I only hope that they carry it through.

I somehow feel that we will be told by some previous supporters of the ICC, that now it has been taken over by "the Imperialists" or "Great Satan"?

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