Criminal Court to
Look into Sudan War Crimes
June 5, 2005
The International Criminal Court will launch a formal investigation into allegations of war crimes in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, officials familiar with the case said Sunday.
The court has been analyzing the situation in Darfur since the United Nations referred to it allegations of rape, murder and plunder in April, following a Security Council vote. Dozens of court officials have begun preparing for the investigation, the largest and most important to be handled by the fledgling body since it was established in July 2002.
Prosecutors were to announce the decision to move forward in Darfur on Monday and Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo will brief the U.N. about his plans later this month in New York, the officials said, adding that they could not comment officially until the investigation had been formally announced by the court.
Investigators have said they hope to move quickly and complete their work over a period of months, rather than years. Once they've gathered evidence and interviewed witnesses, court officials will then consider issuing indictments against individual suspects and seek their extradition to The Hague.
The vast western Sudanese region of Darfur is the scene of one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. An estimated 180,000 people have died — many from hunger and disease — and about 2 million others have been displaced since the conflict began in February 2003.
The referral of the Darfur case was made possible when the United States — which opposes the Hague-based court — backed away from exercising its veto powers as a permanent member of the Security Council.
The U.S. government says it fears the court will initiate bogus charges against American nationals, and has actively undermined it by signing nearly 100 bilateral treaties with countries which have agreed not to surrender U.S. citizens to the court.
Meanwhile, 99 countries have ratified the court's founding treaty, including all of American's major allies in the European Union.
The Geneva-based International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, which spent several months gathering evidence of war crimes, handed the court its findings, including a list of 51 potential suspects.
Darfur's crisis erupted when rebels took up arms against what they saw as years of state neglect and discrimination against Sudanese of African origin. The government is accused of responding with a counterinsurgency campaign in which the ethnic Arab militia known as Janjaweed committed wide-scale abuses against ethnic Africans.
Trials are planned later this year at the International Criminal Court against alleged perpetrators of war crimes in two other violence-wracked African nations, Uganda and Congo.
The court is intended to step in only when countries themselves are unable or unwilling to take action against war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed on their soil.