ICC prosecutor seeks warrant for Sudan's defence minister
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor sought an arrest warrant Friday for Sudan's defence minister for attacks in Darfur, saying the onslaught on unarmed civilians was still going on.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked ICC judges for a warrant for Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, the sixth person sought by the ICC or before the court for crimes committed in the arid war-torn African region.
The warrant, if approved, would cover crimes against humanity and war crimes committed from August 2003 to March 2004.
Khartoum angrily accused the prosecutor of a "politically motivated" decision designed to undermine a peace document signed by the government and a splinter Darfur rebel group in Doha in July.
Rights groups and a newly-formed coalition of rebel groups operating in Darfur and in the embattled states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan welcomed the news.
"Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein was involved in the crimes and that's why we requested the chamber to add him as being responsible," Moreno-Ocampo told AFP. "The crimes are still continuing in Darfur today."
As interior minister at the time, Hussein is wanted by the prosecutor for allegedly coordinating attacks against civilians in villages in west Darfur.
"The evidence allowed the office of the prosecutor to conclude that Mr Hussein is one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility," Moreno-Ocampo's office added in a statement.
The request follows warrants issued in February 2007 for Hussein's deputy and Darfur security chief Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, both wanted on 22 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for directing attacks against Darfur's civilians.
Villages were surrounded, bombed by the Sudanese air force, and then attacked by a combined force of Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.
"The evidence shows that this was a state policy supervised by Mr Hussein to ensure the coordination of attacks against civilians," the prosecutor's statement said.
He said he wanted Hussein arrested to "prevent him from continuing with the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court".
If granted, the warrant would bring to four the number of suspects on the run for crimes committed in Darfur.
Two others, rebel commanders for whom no warrants have been issued, appeared voluntarily before The Hague-based court on war crimes charges in June last year.
The court's highest profile suspect is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted on three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes for his role in the conflict.
Amnesty International said the warrant against Hussein was "a step forward in the efforts to bring justice to the people of Darfur".
"However, this development also highlights the continuing failure of Sudan and other governments to cooperate with the ICC by arresting the other suspects," it said.
But Sudan's foreign ministry lashed out at the move, saying it was against the Doha peace plan.
"It serves the basic agenda of those groups opposed to the Doha document and seeking to put obstacles in the way of its implementation," ministry spokesman Al-Obeid Meruh said in a statement.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have died since conflict broke out in Darfur in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime for a greater share of resources and power.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of having personally instructed his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups -- the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa.
The prosecutor says some four million people were uprooted from their homes, of whom 2.5 million were still languishing in camps for displaced people.
"The court has time, but the people in Darfur, they have no time," he said.
© 2011 AFP