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ICC Prosecutor Names Darfur Suspects

Moreno-Ocampo asks pre-trial judges to consider his evidence, and issue summonses for two suspects to appear before the ICC.
By Katy Glassborow
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said today, February 27, that he believed a minister from the Government of Sudan, GoS, and a Janjaweed militia leader are criminally responsible for crimes committed in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The suspects are Ahmad Muhammad Harun, a former interior minister, and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, a leading figure in the government-backed Janjaweed militia.

At a packed press conference at the ICC, Moreno-Ocampo said that “over the past 20 months our office has collected evidence which suggest there are reasonable grounds to believe” the men jointly committed crimes against the civilian population.

Now the prosecutor is asking pre-trial judges to consider the evidence, and issue summonses for the men to appear before the court - adding that he has been informed by the GoS that Kushayb was arrested by Khartoum in November 2006.

Pre-empting complaints that only two individuals have been named, and not on suspicion of genocide, the chief prosecutor said “our office has focused on some of the most serious incidents and individuals who, according to evidence, bear the greatest responsibility”.

He added that his office is continuing to gather information about current crimes being committed by parties in Darfur, and also violence which is spilling over into refugee camps in Chad and the Central African Republic.

The prosecutor said the two men are suspected of responsibility for 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed during attacks on the villages and towns of Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arwala in West Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004.

These counts include rape, murder, persecution, torture, forcible transfer, destruction of property, inhumane acts, outrage upon personal dignity, unlawful imprisonment and severe deprivation of liberty.

The attacks occurred during a an armed conflict between the GoS and armed rebel forces, including the Justice for Equality Movement, Jem, and the Sudan Liberation Army, SLA.

Moreno-Ocampo admitted the investigation into a situation of ongoing violence was complicated, as “victims and witnesses are a priority, and we have a duty to protect them”.

This meant that prosecutors collected over 100 witness statements from individuals during 70 missions in 17 countries outside Darfur, as it was “not possible to protect victims and witnesses inside Darfur”.

Moreno-Ocampo said the “vast majority of attacks” were carried out by government and Janjaweed against civilians, not against rebels.

He added that “they targeted civilians based on the rationale that they were supporters” of anti-government rebels, with this logic “becoming the justification” for crimes such as mass rape of civilians, who were known not to be participants in the armed conflict.

Answering criticism that no evidence of genocide seems to have been gathered, despite the White House classifying the Darfur conflict as such in September 2004, Moreno-Ocampo said, “We are prosecutors and are following evidence, and have enough to present against these individuals for these crimes.”

In 2003, Harun was appointed head of the “Darfur Security Desk”, and tasked with recruiting, funding and arming the Janjaweed, and said during a public meeting that he had the “power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur for the sake of peace and security”.

Shortly after Harun’s appointment, Moreno-Ocampo said “the recruitment of janjaweed increased into the tens of thousands”.

In a 100-page document submitted to the judges, the chief prosecutor reveals evidence that Harun visited Darfur on a regular basis and became known as the official from Khartoum who armed the janjaweed from an unlimited budget.

Harun was seen in an aircraft loaded with supplies of weapons and ammunition, including G-3s and Kalashnikov rifles destined for use by the Janjaweed, and flying every three months from Khartoum to Mukjar to pay the Janjaweed in cash.

When civilians complained of attacks and looting, they were apparently told that the Janjaweed militia “could do what they wanted” because they were “acting on the orders of the Minister of State”.

Moreno-Ocampo’s evidence alleges that Kushayb led the attacks on villages, commanding thousands of Janjaweed militia in West Darfur, and issuing orders to victimise civilians through mass rape and other sexual offences.

This is a significant move for ICC prosecutors, who have been criticised by human rights groups for not so far issuing charges of sexual violence against anyone involved in the conflict in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The chief prosecutor gave one example of an attack in Arawala in December 2003, when Kushayb is said to have personally inspected a group of naked women before they were raped by men under his command.

A witness said she, and the other women, were tied to trees with their legs apart and continually raped.

One of the main obstacles to ICC prosecutions has been Khartoum’s insistence that the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur, SCCED, is fully capable of prosecuting its own war crimes suspects.

However, the Sudanese authorities also severely downplay the scale of violence and number of deaths in Darfur, and many human right organisations feel that the SCCED is a sham and not intent on holding anyone accountable for grave crimes against humanity.

As the Darfur case was referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council rather than by the Sudanese themselves, and Khartoum insists it does not need outside help, prosecutors have been forced to sit and wait until they can prove SCCED prosecutions are not up to scratch.

Moreno-Ocampo told journalists that in accordance with the Rome Statute, which governs the working of the court, prosecutors had the responsibility to determine whether SCCED was investigating the same cases as the ICC and stressed his team have devoted “considerable resources to assessing the admissibility of this case”.

He said that prosecutors conducted five missions to Sudan, during which they interviewed SCCED judges, prosecutors and members of the police who were part of the Sudanese investigations.

Although investigations in Sudan do involve Kushayb, they are “not in respect of the same incidents or conduct” that are the subject of the case now before the ICC.

Moreno-Ocampo said “our case is about Harun and Kushayb attacking the civilian population, but there is no such investigation in Sudan”.

Therefore, the prosecutor says the case is admissible.

But this could create a stumbling block if the SCCED decides to launch similar charges against the two suspects - which is possible seeing as they established the SCCED days after the prosecutor opened his investigations in Darfur.

When answering a question from this IWPR reporter about whether this could cause confusion, Moreno-Ocampo said “different parties will challenge our admissibility and different parties will challenge our assessment”, and made it clear that prosecutors are “not issuing any judgment on the Sudanese justice system as a whole”.

Now it is up to the pre-trial judges to review the prosecution evidence and determine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that Harun and Kushayb are culpable, and how best to ensure their appearance in The Hague.

No one knows how long this might take.

When prosecutors submitted their evidence surrounding the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda, it took pre-trial judges three months to chew over the evidence and give the go-ahead for indictments.

Even though Kushayb is in custody in Sudan, critics of the court will be keen to see moves being made to ensure both are delivered to The Hague.

Despite arrest warrants issued in July 2005 for five members of Uganda's Lords Resistance Army, the militia leaders have evaded capture and even entered into peace deals with President Museveni which could lead to an amnesty from ICC prosecutions.

Moreno-Ocampo was firm that the onus is now on pre-trial judges to make up their minds, and ensure the appearance of the two men in court.

Katy Glassborow is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.

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