The African Union panel charged with recommending ways to end the
six-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region says a special court to try
those charged with atrocities in Darfur is a priority. The high-level
panel on Sudan, led by Thabo Mbeki, delivered its report to African
leaders at a meeting in Abuja.
Briefing the Abuja meeting, which was chaired by Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, former South African president Thabo Mbeki said there is only one way to make the process credible and acceptable to people in Darfur.
"The panel recommends that with the agreement of the Sudanese parties, the African Union should appoint judges and investigators from outside Sudan who would help their Sudanese counterparts to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate the war and other crimes committed during the Darfur conflict," he said.
"The panel also knows that many in Darfur, including the IDPs [Internally Displaced Peoples] and refugees, and others in the rest of Sudan, rightly or wrongly, have questioned the independence and impartiality of the Sudanese criminal justice system," he continued.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced since ethnic minority rebels in Darfur declared an insurgency against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003. The government says 10,000 people have been killed.
Sudan's Vice President Osman Taka told the meeting that reports of a genocide in Darfur are false.
African Union Commission President Jean Ping welcomed the findings contained in the report and urged the Sudanese government and armed groups in Darfur to support its immediate implementation.
"As we adopt this report, I call on the government of Sudan to move forward," he said. "It has a primary duty to act on behalf of its people. We wish to thank the Sudan government for its full cooperation with the panel and we trust that it will move swiftly to implement the recommendations contained in this report."
"I call on the armed movements in Darfur also to rise to their responsibilities. In this report, they will find the voices of the ordinary Darfurian men and women, whose goals they claim to represent," he added.
The panel also recommended the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission and consideration of reparations for losses incurred during the six-year conflict.
The most powerful armed group in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement, has rejected the African Union panel's recommendation that a special court be set up to try those charged with serious crimes in Darfur. The group says those deemed responsible for atrocities should be tried by the international Court of Justice in The Hague.
The meeting was attended by the leaders of Chad, Kenya, host Nigeria and other delegates from Africa and beyond.