(New York) - Sudan should immediately open its special court trials to independent international monitors who can report publicly on proceedings, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 6, Sudan announced it will start trial proceedings today in a special criminal court in Geneina against three people on charges relating to attacks in West Darfur. One of the accused, "Ali Kosheib" (a pseudonym for Ali Mohammed Ali), was named as a suspect by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in court filings last week.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC will find a case inadmissible if it determines that the national authorities are genuinely willing and able to investigate or prosecute the case in the national justice system. The national proceedings must encompass both the person and the conduct which is the subject of the case before the ICC in order for a case to be inadmissible.

"The decision to try Ali Kosheib immediately following the ICC prosecutor's announcement is obviously an attempt to pre-empt the international court case," said Sara Darehshori, senior counsel in Human Rights Watch's International Justice program. "Sudan should let independent international monitors into the country to observe the trial in if it wants to show that it's anything other than window dressing."

In June 2005, one day after the ICC prosecutor publicly announced he would be starting an investigation into the events in Darfur, Sudan's chief justice announced the establishment of Special Criminal Courts on the Events in Darfur, which he said was "considered a substitute to the International Criminal Court."

In the nearly two years since the Special Criminal Courts were established, the few cases that have been brought before them have only involved low-ranking individuals for relatively minor offenses. No one has been charged with command responsibility.

A number of legal shortcomings in Sudan present obstacles to prosecutions. These include a lack of clarity in the law on which to prosecute crimes against humanity and war crimes, and provisions granting immunity to members of the armed forces, national security agencies and police. In addition, a high standard of proof and ill-treatment of rape victims by the police have made it difficult for rape victims to pursue their charges.

"The government has so far fallen well short of the mark in bringing to trial those accused of horrific crimes in Darfur," said Darehshori. "Given Sudan's poor track record, it is essential that independent international observers be invited to Sudan to be able to view the proceedings in Geneina."
Sudan should immediately open its special court trials to independent international monitors who can report publicly on proceedings, Human Rights Watch said today. On March 6, Sudan announced it will start trial proceedings today in a special criminal court in Geneina against three people on charges relating to attacks in West Darfur. One of the accused, “Ali Kosheib” (a pseudonym for Ali Mohammed Ali), was named as a suspect by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in court filings last week.