(New York) - Sudan should immediately surrender suspect Ali Kosheib to the International Criminal Court, Human Rights Watch said today. Sudan announced yesterday that it had released Kosheib from prison for lack of evidence.

On April 27, 2007, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for "Janjaweed" leader Ali Kosheib for 51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including counts for rape, murder and persecution. At the time the warrants were issued, Kosheib was already in prison in Sudan on unrelated charges.  
 
"Freeing one ICC suspect two weeks after awarding another suspect a plum government post demonstrates Khartoum's blatant disregard for the Security Council resolution requiring cooperation with the court," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program. "It is now all the more imperative that Council members raise this with Sudanese officials."  
 
During UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Sudan last month, the Sudanese government appointed ICC suspect and State Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun to co-chair a committee designated to hear complaints from victims of human rights abuses in Darfur. The ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Haroun, charging him with 42 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for playing a leading role in attacks on four West Darfur villages.  
 
Kosheib, according to research carried out by Human Rights Watch, was one of the key militia leaders responsible for attacks on villages around Mukjar, Bindisi and Garsila in 2003-2004 in West Darfur. In bringing charges against Kosheib, the ICC judges found "reasonable grounds to believe" that he bears responsibility for rapes, destruction of property, perpetrating inhumane acts, and attacking and killing civilians in four villages in West Darfur. The judges also found evidence indicating that Kosheib himself directed attacks as well as mobilized, recruited, armed, and provided supplies to Janjaweed/militia under his command.  
 
"Khartoum is legally obligated to hand over Kosheib to the ICC," said Dicker. "The fact that he will not be brought to justice in Sudan underscores the urgency of Sudan's complying with the ICC warrants."  
 
In a December 2005 report "Entrenching Impunity: Government Responsibility for International Crimes in Darfur," Human Rights Watch identified Haroun and Kosheib as two of at least 22 individuals bearing responsibility for international crimes committed in Darfur.