June 29, 2005

Sudan may not be trying key Darfur suspects – ICC

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Sudan has promised to prosecutemurder and rape suspects in Darfur but the key perpetrators maynot be among those Khartoum plans to put on trial, theprosecutor of a global court said on Wednesday.

Darfur is the first case the U.N. Security Council hasreferred to the new International Criminal Court but Sudan hassaid it would not extradite anyone. Instead Khartoum announcedit would hold its own trials of 160 alleged suspects.

In a report ahead of his first appearance before theSecurity Council on Wednesday, prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocamposaid any Sudanese trial probably would not conflict with an ICCprobe aimed at "prosecuting persons most responsible forcrimes."

He said that in Sudan there appeared to be an "absence ofcriminal proceedings relating to the cases on which the Officeof the Prosecutor is likely to focus."

Moreno-Ocampo has received 2,500 items including documents,video footage and interview transcripts as well as a list of 51suspects, including army and government officials, from aU.N-appointed International Commission of Inquiry.

An estimated 180,000 people have died in the Darfur, inSudan's west, and 2 million have fled their homes to escapeslaughter, pillaging and rape in what the United States hastermed "acts of genocide."

The fledging ICC, the world's first permanent criminalcourt, was created to try perpetrators of war crimes, crimesagainst humanity and genocide. It is a tribunal of last resortwhen local judicial systems are unable or unwilling to do so.

But Moreno-Ocampo said once he had completed hisinvestigation, his office would determine whether any ICC caseswere "the subject of genuine national" prosecutions in Sudan.

The Security Council decided that Sudan over the past twoyears had not brought suspects to justice and asked the ICC,based in The Hague, Netherlands, to do so instead.

The United States, which opposes the court, abstained inthe resolution, adopted on March 31.

Moreno-Ocampo said he had met Sudanese officials in theNetherlands and received information about the country's legalsystem. He also met officials from the African Union, which hasa monitoring force in Darfur.

But he said his investigation required "specific, full andunfettered cooperation of the Government of Sudan and otherparties in the conflict."

While Moreno-Ocampo has set up an investigative team, hegave no indication when he would seek to visit Sudan or whetherthe Khartoum would issue a timely visa.

The ICC, unlike temporary tribunals, has no time limit forits work. Its indictments remain in force until the suspect istried, dies or runs out of hiding places.

Moreno-Ocampo, 52, an Argentine, prosecuted generals in hiscountry's "dirty war" in 1985, when wounds from the 1976-1983dictatorship were still fresh. As many as 30,000 people werekilled or disappeared.