The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has named a former Sudanese state minister and a militia commander as its first two suspects in the case of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London on the decision.
Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, outlined 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity against former Sudanese state interior minister Ahmed Muhammad Harun and militia leader Ali Muhammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb.
During a news conference in The Hague, chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo outlined the evidence against the two men.
"The prosecution considers that Ali Kushayb and Ahmed Harun are some of the most responsible for crimes committed in Darfur," he said. "Our evidence shows that they committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, murder, persecution, torture, forcible transfer, destruction of property, pillaging, inhuman acts, outrage upon personal dignity and severe deprivation of liberty."
Harun was responsible for the western Darfur region and stands accused of helping to recruit Janjaweed militias accused of murders, rapes and torture. Kushayb was a senior Janjaweed militia leader.
The court document states that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that both Harun and Kushayb "bear criminal responsibility" for atrocities committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004.
It is estimated that over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes since the conflict began in 2003, when southern rebels launched an attack against a government garrison. There has been long-standing animosity between the predominantly black African population of southern Sudan and the ethnic Arab government in Khartoum.
The government responded with a harsh crackdown using regular troops and mounted Janjaweed militias.
Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo specified some of the evidence against Janjaweed commander, Kushayb.
"In Arawalla, December 2003, the evidence shows Ali Kushayb personally inspected a group of naked women before they were raped by men in military uniform," he added. "A witness [and] victim said she and the other women were tied to trees and repeatedly raped."
The prosecutor's findings are not a formal indictment and will now be examined by pre-trial judges.
Sudan quickly rejected the court's findings and Justice Minister Ali al-Mardi told journalists in Khartoum the international court had no jurisdiction to try any Sudanese for any alleged crimes. Khartoum has said repeatedly it would not respect any indictments handed down by the international court.
The International Criminal Court is designed to try only cases that national courts are unable or unwilling to handle. Moreno-Ocampo said his office had taken into consideration investigations conducted by the Sudanese authorities, but he said the Court's case is much more comprehensive, and therefore, still admissible.