(New York) - The United Nations Security Council should reiterate Khartoum's binding legal obligation to execute arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said today. This morning the ICC prosecutor is briefing the Security Council on the progress of his investigations in Darfur, the week before a council mission to Khartoum.

"Khartoum will further isolate itself on the world stage if it shelters suspects indicted for crimes against humanity in Darfur," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "If individual Security Council members enable Khartoum to thwart justice, they risk being tainted by Sudan's blatant lawlessness."  
 
In March 2005, the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC prosecutor and imposed an obligation on Sudan to cooperate fully with the court's investigations in resolution 1593. On May 2, 2007, the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber issued warrants for arrest of Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and the Janjaweed militia leader known as Ali Kosheib for a series of attacks in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. Ali Kosheib is reportedly in Sudanese custody on the basis of other charges being brought in national proceedings.  
 
"The landscape changed with the arrest warrants for Haroun and Kosheib," said Dicker. "In failing to hand over war crimes suspects in its control, Khartoum is openly flouting both a Security Council resolution and an international court order."  
 
Since early 2003, Sudanese government forces and government-backed militia known as Janjaweed have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes on a massive scale in the context of counterinsurgency operations against rebel movements in Darfur, a western Sudanese region bordering Chad.  
 
More than 2 million of Darfur's estimated population of 6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes since February 2003 as a result of a government-supported campaign of "ethnic cleansing" carried out in an internal armed conflict. Since early 2004, Human Rights Watch has comprehensively documented the Sudanese government's responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.  
 
"Our research indicates that Sudanese officials at the highest levels were responsible for widespread atrocities in Darfur in 2003 and 2004," said Dicker. "To ensure justice is done, the prosecutor must follow the evidence further up the chain of command."  
 
In its December 2005 report, "Entrenching Impunity," Human Rights Watch described in detail the Sudanese government's strategy of using civilian officials and the armed forces to recruit, support, and coordinate the Janjaweed militias. The report also highlights the role of senior Sudanese government policymakers in initiating and implementing the campaign.