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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 04:21 GMT 05:21 UK
Darfur extradition calls rejected
A woman at a refugee camp in Zam Zam in northern Darfur
Millions of people have been displaced by the conflict
Sudan's justice minister has rejected calls for the extradition of those accused of crimes in Darfur to face international justice.

Ali Mohammed Osman Yassin told the BBC that 10 suspects were already on trial in Sudan.

His comments came after the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said he had evidence of "grave crimes" in the region.

At least 180,000 people have died in the conflict in Darfur.

The ICC can try war crimes suspects when national courts are unable or unwilling to.

Earlier this year, Darfur became the first case referred by the UN Security Council to The Hague-based court.

The chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday that his office had found evidence that warranted the bringing of the Darfur case to the court.

"Crimes include the killing of thousands of civilians, the widespread destruction and looting of villages, leading to the displacement of approximately 1.9 million civilians," he said, adding there was evidence of widespread rape and sexual assault.

He accused the Sudanese authorities of failing to take action against those responsible.

The prosecutor said that although Khartoum had set up various courts to try crimes in Darfur, they did not relate to the most serious cases.

'Very transparent'

Mr Yassin said the 10 accused were being tried in an open manner in Nyala, southern Darfur, and it would not be appropriate to extradite them.

He said several of the 10 suspects on trial were facing rape charges, while one of them was a suspected armed robber.

"Now the court is starting its job... We have started judicial proceedings and the hearings have started," Mr Yassin told the BBC's Newshour programme.

"We are very transparent, we are co-operative, and we would like to use all the rational logic to convince the ICC that this matter can be retained locally."

The minister said earlier this month that more than 160 suspects had already been identified but he did not give any more details, beyond saying they were from Darfur and that they included anti-government rebels.

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