Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed
January 26, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government has not conducted serious investigations into the alleged war crimes committed in the western region of Darfur despite assertions by Khartoum to the contrary, a senior official in the justice ministry said today.
Picture taken in April 2004 shows the village of Terbeba after being burnt by the pro-Sudanese government ’Janjaweed’ militias in the western Darfur region of Sudan (AFP)
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2005 after a U.N. international commission of inquiry concluded that the Sudanese judiciary is unwilling or unable to carry out credible prosecutions in the war ravaged region.
To date, the Hague tribunal charged three individuals from the government side including president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kushayb.
All three face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity but Bashir is also wanted for genocide in connection with claims that he orchestrated a campaign to wipe out the African tribes of Fur, Zaghawa and Masaalit in Darfur.
Sudan has cooperated with the ICC until 2007 and allowed its teams to query several military and civilian officials. However, Khartoum later refused to recognize the court’s jurisdiction and dismissed any talk about surrendering its citizens to the ICC.
During the course of the last few years and as a result of regional and international pressure, Sudan announced establishment of special courts and appointment of a prosecutor with the hope of stalling ICC investigations.
Last October, Sudanese justice minister sacked the former special prosecutor Nimr Ibrahim Mohamed and appointed a new one without an explanation.
Mohamed was known for an attempt to investigate Haroun before being blocked by his boss. Kushayb was also reportedly to be brought to court after the former prosecutor said he compiled enough evidence against him but nothing emerged on his case.
“The prosecutor may find some difficulties taking procedures against them [Haroun Kushayb] because they are being protected by the government,” the state minister for justice Bol Lul Wang told Reuters in an interview today.
When asked whether Sudan was currently pursuing active cases against the two men Wang answered: “Not at all.”
Wang is a member of south Sudan’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), former southern rebels who joined a coalition government with the north after a 2005 peace deal ended decades of civil war.
“These people are high figures in the government. The government has no will to pursue or even investigate those people … It is not serious. Because if it was serious they would not let a man like Haroun hold a ministerial post.”
The SPLM figure said that Sudan’s special prosecutor was investigating allegations of atrocities carried out by Darfur insurgents.
“There are some people who are working on it … From time to time they go to Darfur. But [the suspects] have escaped to areas beyond the control of the government.”
There were also some investigations into members of Arab militias in Darfur, he added. “It seems like the government is not serious about taking a very immediate measure against them. It is very reluctant.”
Today’s remarks will cause a huge embarrassment to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in light of Wang’s senior role within the justice ministry.
The ICC prosecutor Luis-Moreno Ocampo has consistently accused Khartoum of actively covering up the crimes it commits in Darfur and urged the UNSC not to be part of that during his semi-annual briefings.
A communique issued following a high-level multilateral meeting at the U.N. last September welcomed the commitment of the Sudanese government “to end impunity” in Darfur to the dismay of human rights advocates.
“To laud Sudan for its commitment to ending impunity is preposterous,” said Human Rights Watch’s Richard Dicker at the time, noting that Sudan has refused to cooperate with the ICC. He said the provision also contradicted Obama’s stated position that Bashir’s government has committed genocide.
An African Union panel headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki was tasked with working on ensuring that Sudan establish mechanisms to bring justice to Darfuris particularly through hybrid courts as well as making changes to the penal code.
But Khartoum resisted the idea and Mbeki acknowledged in a report last November that he had little success in pushing Khartoum to implement his justice proposals.
U.N. officials estimate that as many as 300,000 people have died in Darfur since insurgents took up arms in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the arid region. Khartoum puts the death toll at around 10,000.