Sunday, April 27, marks the first anniversary of the issuance of two arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed in Sudan's Darfur region. Tendai Maphosa reports the Internet sites Facebook and Google are helping human rights organizations put pressure on the Sudanese government to hand over the suspects.
Sudan has steadfastly refused to hand over the two suspects - Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. But human rights groups aim to increase pressure on the Sudanese government by turning to Google Earth, Google Maps and the social networking site Facebook.
On Sunday Facebook is launching the Wanted for War Crimes Watch List. The list will include links to indicted war criminals still on the run and encourage Facebook users to come forward with sightings and reports on their last-known locations.
The Aegis Trust, a Britain-based non-governmental organization focused on the prevention of genocide, is the coordinator of the Wanted for War Crimes campaign. Aegis Trust spokesman Nick Donovan said that wanted posters can only be seen by a few people while billions of people surf the World Wide Web.
"What we are doing with Google Earth and Google maps and Facebook is telling people about the crimes," he said. "On the Map we are showing locations of the two suspects. We have Ahmed Harun's office address. We have his phone number, know where he lives. We know where he works. We are asking people to monitor Google Earth and Google maps if they see the two suspects, to report their movements so that we can build up a pattern just to show that we know where these people are, they are not fugitives hiding in caves somewhere."
Google Earth and Google Maps have been used to map the last-known movements of the two Sudanese suspects, each indicted by the ICC for over 40 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur in 2003 and 2004.
Also on Sunday, human rights organizations around the world, including the Aegis Trust, are launching a "Justice for Darfur" campaign, calling for the two to be arrested.
"It's a campaign designed to draw attention to some of the serious crimes against humanity and war that have been committed in Darfur," explains Nick Donovan. "So we are launching this campaign, which I fear will be a long campaign."
The Sudanese government has said the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction in Sudan and that there is no evidence linking the wanted men to any crimes in Darfur. It adds it has tried and handed down heavy sentences to some people responsible for crimes in Darfur.
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 Janjaweed militia leader.
It is estimated more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others 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.