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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 February 2007, 17:16 GMT
ICC claims further isolate Sudan
By Jonah Fisher
BBC News, Khartoum

Ahmed Muhammed Haroun
Mr Haroun is still a Sudanese government minister
No-one had expected the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be quite as bold.

In naming Ahmed Haroun, a government minister, as a war crimes suspect the ICC has transformed a long-running disagreement with Khartoum into a head-on collision.

For four years the Sudanese government has denied backing the Janjaweed militia. But the message from ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is clear.

He has evidence that Darfur's worst atrocities were orchestrated by the Sudanese government through Mr Haroun and not the actions of rogue Arab militia.

As the minister responsible for the Darfur portfolio in 2003 and 2004 Mr Haroun was regularly in Darfur.

According to the ICC he was recruiting, funding and personally arming the Arab Janjaweed militia and encouraging them to target civilians.

The ICC says that during a public meeting in 2003, Mr Haroun said that as part of his job he had been given "all the power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur for the sake of peace and security."

'Colonel of colonels'

Ahmad Haroun is still a minister in the Sudanese government.

As minister of state at the ministry of humanitarian affairs Mr Haroun is now part of a department that is supposed to help Darfur's two million war displaced.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo
Luis Moreno Ocampo's report is the result of 21 months of research

In practice the ministry infuriates Sudan's many aid agencies by imposing visa and permit restrictions on their work.

The other man named is Darfur militia leader Ali Kushayb. At the peak of his powers Ali Kushayb was one of the most powerful of Darfur's commanders.

A so-called "colonel of colonels", Mr Kushayb commanded thousands of men in mid-2003.

According to the ICC, Mr Kushayb ordered his men to mass rape, kill and torture the local population.

Under its terms of reference the ICC can only step in when a country's judicial system has proved unwilling or incapable of putting people on trial.

Mr Kushayb is thought to already be in the custody of the Sudanese government for attacks committed in Darfur but Mr Moreno-Ocampo said his evidence related to different incidents.

'One-sided'

Despite numerous reports of human rights abuses committed by Darfur's rebel movements none of their leaders were named by Mr Moreno-Ocampo.

For the Sudanese government that will be seen as further confirmation of the one-sided attitude that they believe the international community has taken to the conflict.

Sudan's president regularly complains that rebel ceasefire violations are not condemned with the same severity as government attacks.

Map of Darfur region

There is little prospect of either Ahmad Haroun or Ali Kushayb appearing in court soon.

Sudan has always maintained that its own courts are capable of trying Darfur's war criminals.

"We would never accept that any Sudanese national stand trial outside the national legal framework," Justice Minister Ali al-Mardi said, "even if he was among those who took up arms and fought against the government."

Mr al-Mardi dismissed the allegations against his fellow minister.

He said that Mr Haroun had been in charge of the police service and had never handed out money or weapons to the militia in Darfur.

New approach

In recent weeks the African Union and the United Nations had taken an increasingly conciliatory stance towards Sudan.

Special envoys visited and, despite evidence of continued government bombing, praised Khartoum's expressed commitment to a negotiated not a military settlement.

Being positive was all part of a new effort to re-energise the peace process and try and achieve a new ceasefire on the ground.

But that may count for little now.

By linking the government directly to Darfur's worst atrocities, ICC prosecutors may have finally shattered Sudan's fragile relationship with the international community.

Aid agencies and UN operations are already assessing what Mr Moreno-Ocampo's words mean for their safety of their operations.


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