The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) says he will present evidence against Darfur war crimes suspects in February. VOA's correspondent at the U.N. Peter Heinlein reports the investigation is focusing on atrocities committed near the beginning of Darfur's nearly four-year civil war.
I.C.C. Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo says his office has sufficient evidence to identify those responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity in Darfur. After briefing the Security Council Thursday, Ocampo said he is seeking more information from Sudanese authorities, but that the cases are ready for examination by judges in The Hague.
"We are ready to present the first case to the judges. The case will show evidence of willful killings, massive rapes, tortures and pillaging of entire cities. We are focused on the worst incidents and we believe we have enough evidence to prove who are the most responsible for these crimes in Darfur. We are planning to present our evidence in February before the judges of the International Criminal Court," he said.
In his report to the Security Council, Ocampo said his team of investigators has carried out more than 70 missions in 17 countries, and interviewed dozens of victims of atrocities.
But Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalahaleem Mohamad called the I.C.C. investigation unnecessary and politically motivated. The I.C.C. is authorized to carry out prosecutions only when national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to do so. The Sudanese envoys says his country's judiciary is already well along with its own probe, and has listed 14 suspects for prosecution.
"The referral by the Security Council of this issue to the ICC has been very much politically motivated decision. We still maintain that. However, our government in its own wisdom and also because of its concern for justice in the whole country, has initiated a lot of work in indicting those responsible for crimes in Darfur," he said.
Most of the cases being presented by the I.C.C. prosecutor concern events that occurred in 2003 and 2004, in the early days after Darfur rebels declared war on the Khartoum government. Human rights groups estimate more than 200,000 people have died in Darfur as a result of the fighting. Two and a half million more have been forced to flee their homes.
For the most part, government-backed Arab militias known as janjaweed are blamed for most of the atrocities, although investigators say rebel groups are also accused of war crimes.
European, American and U.N. officials have all warned in recent days that violence in Darfur is again threatening to spiral out of control.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair suggested Wednesday that like-minded countries should impose a no-fly zone if Sudan does not allow a U.N. peacekeeping force into the region.
But Sudanese diplomats have ridiculed the suggestion, and said they will not be pressured by what they called "British threats". Khartoum's U.N. Ambassador Mohamad told reporters Thursday a no-fly zone would be an affront not only to Sudan's sovereignty, but to all of Africa.