(New York) - The United Nations Security Council should press Sudan to surrender war crimes suspects Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, an international coalition of human rights groups said today.

The "Justice for Darfur" campaign urged Security Council members presently visiting Khartoum to raise Sudan's non-cooperation with the ICC, and to adopt a new resolution calling upon Sudan to cooperate fully with the court. Nobel Laureates Jody Williams and Shirin Ebadi also supported the call.

Members of the UN Security Council are currently on a nine-day trip to Africa, which includes visits to Khartoum and Darfur. Their trip coincides with a briefing to the Security Council in New York by the ICC's chief prosecutor, on Sudan's ongoing refusal to cooperate with the court despite its obligation to do so under Security Council Resolution 1593 (2005).

"The mission to Khartoum is a crucial opportunity to press Sudanese leaders, both privately and publicly, to cooperate with the court," said Niemat Ahmadi of the Save Darfur Coalition. "Three years ago the Security Council made a commitment to justice in Darfur by referring the matter to the ICC. It is now time for the council to take the next step toward honoring that commitment."

The ICC issued arrest warrants for the two suspects more than a year ago, on April 27, 2007. The suspects are charged with 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of murder, persecution, torture, rape, and forcible displacement. Despite the seriousness of these crimes, Sudanese authorities have blatantly refused to cooperate with the court or surrender the two suspects. At one point the Sudanese Ambassador to the United Nations even called for the ICC prosecutor himself to be tried in court.

Ahmad Harun remains the minister for humanitarian affairs in Sudan, responsible for the well-being of the very civilians he has been accused of attacking. In this position, and as liaison with African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), he retains considerable influence over the operations of humanitarian organizations providing assistance to the internally displaced. He frequently represents the ruling National Congress Party at formal functions and events. In September 2007, he was appointed to a committee established to monitor security between North and South Sudan and he is therefore now playing a role in relation to the troubled border area of Abyei.

In October 2007, the Sudanese government announced that the second suspect, Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, had been released from custody for lack of evidence against him and returned to active duty.

When the ICC prosecutor last briefed the Security Council on the December 2007 investigation, council members responded with individual statements of support for the court, but took no action.

"The Justice for Darfur campaign is looking to the Security Council to support justice for the victims in Darfur, and to stand behind its historic referral to the court," said Ahmadi. "It is time to respond to Khartoum's flagrant obstruction with a clear resolution reminding Sudan of its obligations to the court, and to the victims."

Nobel Laureates Professor Jody Williams and Dr. Shirin Ebadi also supported the call for justice in Darfur.

"If a man kills one person, rapes one girl, or burns down one mosque we expect that the law should respond," said Dr. Shirin Ebadi, human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Laureate (2003). "Why should this be different when hundreds of civilians are killed and many women raped? The international community must act now to follow through on the gritty details of arrests and enforcement."

Jody Williams raised particular concern for the victims of widespread rape used as a weapon of war in Darfur - the crime of which both suspects have been accused.

"The UN Security Council must act to help bring justice to the women of Darfur, too many of whom have been raped or sexually tortured," said Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997). "Sustainable peace will only come when those who have ordered the use of this war tactic - as well as those who commit the crime of rape itself - are brought to justice."