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UN Urged to Pressure Sudan on Darfur War Crimes Suspects


Senior international legal experts and human rights activists say the U.N. Security Council should pressure Sudan to hand over two suspected war criminals to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The two are wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. Tendai Maphosa has details from London.

Darfuri and international legal experts have signed a letter to the Security Council, urging it to pressure Sudan's government to hand over for trial Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb. The two are accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur in 2003 and 2004.

The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for the two men almost a year ago.

Nick Donovan heads the Darfur campaign at the Aegis Trust, a Britain-based non-governmental organization focused on the prevention of genocide. Donovan tells VOA the United Nations has several options available.

"The U.N. Security Council can take some concrete steps such as imposing targeted sanctions like freezing the bank accounts of those who are protecting Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, the two suspects," Donovan said. "In this way they can put pressure on those who are refusing to hand them over to the International Criminal Court."

But the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid al Mubarak, dismisses the letter as part of a campaign to demonize Sudan. He tells VOA the suspects will not be handed over to the ICC.

"The International Criminal Court is itself controversial and highly discredited; for one reason, which is this that many countries including the United States are exempted from the rules relevant to the International Criminal Court," Mubarak said. "Over and above that, Sudan is not party to it, it has not ratified anything relevant to it."

Mubarak says Sudan's judiciary is quite capable of trying its own accused.

He says that some people accused of human rights abuses in Darfur have been tried in Sudan and received heavy sentences. He says Kushayb and Harun are not up for trial because there is no evidence against them. He also dismisses the evidence that led to their ICC indictment as vague reports and accusations by people who are not credible.

Sudan Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmad Muhammad Harun was state interior minister at the height of the Darfur conflict. He is accused of helping to recruit Janjaweed militias and contributing to the commission of crimes against humanity. Ali Kushayb, was a senior militia leader.

It is estimated more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million driven from their homes since the conflict in Darfur began in 2003, when southern rebels launched an attack against a government garrison. The government responded with a harsh crackdown, using regular troops and Janjaweed militias.

Among those who have signed the letter to the Security Council are Carla del Ponte and Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutors for the ICC tribunals for Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, Salih Mahmoud Osman, Darfuri winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize and members of the Darfur Bar Association.

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