(New York) - The United Nations Security Council should follow up on the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor’s report tomorrow and call on Sudan to surrender two suspects to the court, Human Rights Watch said today.
"The Security Council made a commitment to justice for the victims of Darfur when it referred the situation there to the International Criminal Court prosecutor," said Richard Dicker, International Justice Program director at Human Rights Watch. "With two arrest warrants, the rubber has hit the road and the council must now insist on arrests. Failing to do so would betray the people of Darfur and make a mockery of the council's own actions."
On March 31, 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 under UN Resolution 1593.
On April 27, 2007, the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber issued arrest warrants for Ahmed Haroun and "Ali Kosheib" (the nom de guerre of Ali Mohammed Ali), charging 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their leading roles in a series of attacks against civilians in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004. The charges include acts of murder, persecution, rape, and forcible displacement.
Haroun is currently Sudanese state minister of humanitarian affairs. When the UN secretary-general was in Sudan, Khartoum appointed Haroun to co-chair a committee mandated to hear complaints of human rights abuses in Darfur. Ali Kosheib, a top "Janjaweed" leader, was in Sudanese custody on other charges at the time the warrants were issued, but has recently been released.
"Khartoum has had seven months to take steps to turn over the suspects," said Dicker. "Instead of arresting the accused war criminals, it has promoted one and freed the other. As Sudan's government repeatedly flouts its obligation to cooperate with the court, the Security Council's silence will be heard clearly in Khartoum."
In a November 29, 2007 letter to the Security Council, Human Rights Watch urged the council to take strong steps in calling on Sudan to fulfill its duties under resolution 1593 and to further demonstrate its commitment to justice by sending a mission to Sudan for the express purpose of assessing Sudan's cooperation with the court.
More than 2 million of Darfur's estimated population of 6 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, and tens of thousands have been killed as a result of a government campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against populations considered supportive of Darfur rebel groups. Since early 2004, Human Rights Watch has comprehensively documented the Sudanese government's responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
"Our research indicates that official responsibility for widespread atrocities in Darfur goes to the highest levels of the Sudanese government," said Dicker. "These first two accused are just the tip of the iceberg. That's why it is important to hear from the prosecutor on his ongoing investigations into the horrific crimes since 2003."