(New York) - The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision today to issue arrest warrants against a Sudanese minister and a Janjaweed leader, both charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, obligates Khartoum to hand over the two suspects for trial in The Hague, Human Rights Watch said.
Earlier today the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber I issued warrants of arrest for State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun and the Janjaweed militia leader known as Ali Kosheib (a pseudonym for Ali Mohammed Ali). The two suspects are accused of playing leading roles in a series of attacks against civilians in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The Janjaweed leader Ali Kosheib is currently in custody in Sudan on the basis of other charges being brought in national proceedings.
"Today's ICC decision is an important step for victims in Darfur," said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. "Khartoum is now obligated to comply with the arrest warrants and send these suspects to The Hague."
The Pre-Trial Chamber found that there were "reasonable grounds to believe" that Haroun and Kosheib bear responsibility for persecuting, raping, attacking and killing civilians in four villages in West Darfur. According to the 58-page court decision, evidence shows Haroun allegedly recruited, paid and supplied arms to the Janjaweed who carried out the attacks. Ali Kosheib is alleged to have led the attacks and mobilized, recruited, armed and provided supplies to militia and Janjaweed under his command.
In its decision to issue warrants, the Pre-Trial Chamber noted the Sudanese foreign ministry's public statement that Khartoum will not cooperate with the ICC. It also noted indications that Ahmed Haroun is concealing evidence, and the fact that Ali Kosheib is in Sudanese custody and thus unable to voluntarily appear before the court without a warrant.
The United Nations Security Council resolution 1593, which in March 2005 referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC's prosecutor, requires Sudan to cooperate fully with ICC investigations.
"The Security Council has obligated Sudan to cooperate with the ICC, and Sudanese officials should stop flouting their responsibility to comply," said Dicker. "The council needs to monitor Sudan's conduct and insist that it hands over the suspects as required."
The cooperation required from Sudanese authorities includes not only executing arrest warrants, but also responding positively to requests from the ICC prosecutor. The Arab League and the African Union should also take steps to ensure the Sudanese government complies with these obligations.
Human Rights Watch has comprehensively documented the Sudanese government's responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur since early 2004. In the December 2005 report, "Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur," Human Rights Watch detailed the Sudanese government's strategy of using civilian officials and its armed forces to recruit, support and coordinate the Janjaweed militias.
The report also highlighted the role of senior Sudanese government policy makers and others, including Haroun and Kosheib, in initiating and implementing the campaign.