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ICC Progress on Darfur Investigations

Chief prosecutor suggests indictments could soon be issued for crimes in Sudanese region.
By Katy Glassborow
The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, this week told an international conference of supporters of the war crimes court that his team is close to launching proceedings against those suspected of orchestrating murder, rape and torture in the Darfur region of Sudan.

He was addressing representatives from over a hundred countries that signed the founding legislation of the ICC, the Rome Statute, who have convened in The Hague for the fifth session of the Assembly of States Parties, ASP.

They are holding discussions until December 1 about the strategic work of the court, its budget, the location of its permanent premises, and financial contributions to the victims’ trust fund, designed to compensate communities devastated by violence.

The ICC started investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur, after the situation was referred to the court by the UN Security Council.

With Sudan unwilling to provide security for prosecution investigators, they have had to conduct their work in neighbouring countries. Nonetheless,

Moreno-Ocampo said that "in spite of the challenges, my office has succeeded in collecting the evidence required to impartially investigate crimes in Darfur".

The ICC is also currently involved in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which invited the court to investigate suspected war crimes amidst ongoing violence.

Five arrest warrants have been issued against suspects from the rebel Lords Resistance Army in Uganda, and one against the leader of the Union des Patriotes Congolais, UPC, militia in the Congo, Thomas Lubanga.

No one in Uganda has yet been arrested, but Lubanga is partway through his confirmation of charges hearing at the ICC, which will determine in January whether there is enough incriminating evidence against him to proceed to a full trial.

As yet, there are no arrest warrants against individuals suspected of fuelling the ongoing violence in the troubled Darfur region, but this could soon change according to the chief prosecutor remarks.

During a press conference at the beginning of the ASP session on November 23, Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest warrants already issued by the court are having an impact on reducing violence, and that "all three countries are working together to find a solution".

He said that even though Sudan has not signed the Rome Statute and is not a member of the ASP, the country has signed an agreement with prosecutors to help bring the LRA to justice, so that the rebel militia lose “their safe haven in Sudan".

As well as country representatives, NGOs that work as watchdogs for the court are attending the ASP events, coordinated by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, CICC, a global network of over 2,000 NGOs.

The Executive Director of the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice, Brigid Inder, told journalists at a press briefing marking the beginning of the ASP sessions that the position of Gender Legal Advisor has still not been filled, four years after the creation of the court - which is a problem, given that the position was explicitly mandated by the Rome Statute.

Richard Dicker, who heads up the International Justice Programme at Human Rights Watch, expressed his concerns that ASP is planning to cut the budget for outreach.

He said communication and outreach are vital to make trials and verdicts at the ICC meaningful to the communities affected by the violence and living in refugee camps. "Underlying all of the discussions about budgets and strategic plans is the further progress in building on the experience to make this court meaningful," he said.

The ASP will continue at the World Forum Convention Centre in The Hague until December 1.

Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.