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Darfuris Say Hague's List Must Include Al-Bashir


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Luis Moreno Ocampo, on Tuesday revealed the names of two people suspected of war crimes in Sudan's embattled Darfur region, where four years of conflict have laid waste to an area the size of France. For VOA, Noel King has this report from El Fasher, Sudan.

Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo named a former Sudanese state interior minister, Ahmed Mohammed Haroun and a leader of the feared Arab militias known as janjaweed, Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel Rahman.

But Darfuris are adamant that the list must also indict Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a man whose name evokes nothing but fury among the displaced in Darfur.

Sheikh Isaac Adam Adam, a leader of the Tur tribe, spoke to VOA from a camp for the displaced in Kaas, south Darfur.

"Bashir is a criminal," he said. "He gave the Janjaweed weapons. The international court must try him."

Bashir's administration is charged with arming the Janjaweed and giving them free reign to conduct a campaign of rape and murder targeting African villages, following an African rebellion in 2003.

After the International Criminal Court announced in 2005 that it would launch an investigation into suspected war criminals in Darfur, Sudan reacted angrily.

Top government officials accused the court of attempting to meddle in Sudanese affairs and insisted Sudan could try suspected war criminals internally.

For many, the plan made little sense. Some of Sudan's top officials were believed to be the main perpetrators of the conflict that the United States has labeled genocide.

Fatma Adam Yagoub is the leader of women's affairs at the Abu Shouk camp for displaced Darfuris in the northern capital city of El Fasher.

She explained to VOA why many people saw the government's plan to try suspects internally as flawed.

The government is part of the problem, she said. You cannot catch yourself. Omar Al Bashir is chief of the war criminals. He makes the plans and has other people carry out the plans, she said.

On Tuesday, Sudan's justice minister said the court has no jurisdiction in Sudan and said war crimes suspects will not be handed over.

Sudanese officials have said that even their fiercest foes, the rebels in Darfur, should only be tried internally.

But members of former rebel groups disagreed.

Abdul Gasm Ahmed, a commander with the Sudan Liberation Army, based in Gereida, south Darfur, spoke to VOA before he had seen the list.

"We want justice to be done," he said. "The trials cannot take place in Sudan. If I am named as a war criminal I will go to the court and turn myself in."

Abdel Gasm told VOA that he believes Omar Al Bashir is guilty of war crimes and should be tried, this despite the fact that his own faction of the SLA signed a peace accord with Al Bashir's government last May.

The International Criminal Court cannot itself hunt down war crimes suspects.

Observers believe that Sudan's staunch refusal to allow the United Nations into Darfur to bolster the struggling African Union springs from a fear that the U.N. will try to track down those who have been named.

The United Nations says Sudan's own criminal court has made little progress in prosecuting suspects.

Experts estimate that the conflict has cost at least 200,000 lives and made homeless some 2.5 million people.

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