International Criminal Court Prosecutor seeks charges against rebels in Darfur

Luis Moreno-Ocampo International Criminal Court Prosecutor

20 November 2008 – The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) today presented evidence against three rebel commanders for their role in last year’s deadly attack against peacekeepers in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur, vowing that he “will not let such attacks go unpunished.”

Some 1,000 rebels attacked the Haskanita camp in South Darfur state on 29 September 2007, killing 12 peacekeepers serving with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) – a predecessor to the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission known as UNAMID – and wounding eight others.

The three commanders “planned, led their troops and directed the attack… and completely destroyed AMIS facilities and property, directly affecting aid and security for millions of people of Darfur who are in need of protection,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said, according to a press release issued by the Court.

“No one is above the law,” he added.

The Prosecution has concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe the three commanders bear criminal responsibility for three counts of war crimes for murder, intentionally directing attacks against personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission and pillaging.

He later told the UN News Centre that the rebels’ names are sealed because “the best way to ensure their appearance is to keep confidential their names for now,” adding that they must “recognize that they have to respect the Court.”

Mr. Moreno-Ocampo expressed outrage against the attack on peacekeepers in Haskanita, saying that “this cannot happen,” for “if you attack them, there is no hope for the civilians.”

Although he said that he expects no cooperation on the part of the Sudanese authorities, he stressed that it is his “duty to show that the law will be enforced very seriously.”

Today’s presentation of evidence to the ICC could help to further the Darfur peace process, the Prosecutor said, because “applying the law will help to establish law and bring peace to the region.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said in a statement issued by his spokesperson that he “emphasizes that the United Nations respects the independence of the Court and its judicial process, and stresses the critical importance of full compliance by all parties to the actions of the Court.”

He said that the two UN peacekeeping missions operating in Sudan will continue to work in an “impartial manner, cooperating in good faith with all partners to further the goal of peace and stability in the country,” adding that the world body will also press ahead with its humanitarian and development efforts in the country.

The investigation of the three rebel commanders is the ICC’s third arising from the situation in Darfur, which was referred to The Hague-based Court by the Security Council in 2005.

In July, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the last five years in Darfur.

The ICC has issued arrest warrants for Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Sudanese Minister of State for the Interior, and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb. In presenting his evidence against them to the Court, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo said that they “jointly committed crimes against the civilian population in Darfur.”

More than 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Darfur, an impoverished and relatively arid region on Sudan’s western flank, since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen in 2003. Another 2.7 million civilians have had to flee their homes.

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