In April 2007, the ICC issued arrest warrants for two Sudanese officials who are suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur, but the government in Khartoum has refused to hand them over to the Hague-based court.
The suspects, Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, are charged with 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of murder, persecution, torture, rape, and forcible displacement.
Harun is currently serving as humanitarian affairs minister in Sudan. The Sudanese government took the other suspect into custody but released him in October 2007, declaring that there was no evidence against him.
Last December, the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, told the Security Council that the Sudanese government was persistent in its refusal to cooperate with the court. However, the Council failed to take any practical action.
Addressing the Security Council on Thursday, Moreno-Ocampo said that "massive crimes are still being committed in Darfur" which have "required the sustained mobilization of the entire Sudanese state apparatus."
"Girls are still being raped. Children die as their schools are bombed. The entire Darfur region is a crime scene," he said. "I have collected compelling evidence. The evidence will identify those most responsible for crimes against civilians in Darfur, in particular the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa" ethnic groups.
Bill Pace, a rights activist who played a leading role in the campaign for the establishment of the world court for war crimes, said, "It's imperative that Sudan respect international law."
Along with dozens of other prominent rights activists, Pace is currently leading a campaign called "Justice for Darfur." In a letter released last week, the campaign warned of further atrocities in Darfur.
"Sudan will only take its Chapter VII obligations seriously if the Council ensures its resolutions are upheld," the letter said, referring to Security Council Resolution 1593, which seeks Sudanese cooperation with the ICC.
In their letter, campaigners added that failure of the Council to act "will further embolden" Sudan to violate international law. "You should demonstrate your commitment to the ICC, as well as the Council's resolve to ensuring justice for the victims."
The ongoing armed conflict in Darfur has claimed nearly half a million lives. UN estimates suggest that at least two million people have been forced to leave their homes.
Despite the presence of some 9,000 UN peacekeepers in Darfur, reports from humanitarian groups in the region suggest the government-backed militias are still engaged in armed violence against innocent civilians.
"The use of rape as a weapon is still continuing," said Ahmadi, adding that the Sudanese government has done nothing to stop such crimes against humanity and that, in many cases, it remains supportive of the militia.
In criticising Sudan for its refusal to hand over the war crimes suspects, campaigners raised questions about China's role and said Khartoum would behave only if Beijing hardened its stance on Darfur.
"It was the obstruction of China which prevented the ICC action last December," said Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Dicker and other activists believe that with the increased cooperation from China, the United States and other members of the Council could exert a great deal of pressure on Sudan to arrest the ICC suspects.
"It's in a key position," said Dicker about the U.S. role. This month, the U.S. holds the Council's rotating presidency, and is expected to release a strongly-worded presidential statement on the Darfur violence.
Shortly before the U.S. took charge of the Council, more than 50 members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging him to act through the Security Council to address the Darfur situation.
Mindful that the ICC prosecutor is due to submit his report to the Security Council this week, the legislators said that would provide the U.S. with "a concrete opportunity" to lead the Council in condemning Sudan.
"Sudan must hand over to the ICC all indicted individuals without any delay," said the legislators, who also called for the full deployment of UN forces in Darfur.
The Bush administration considers the ongoing violence in Darfur as an act of genocide and has taken a tough position against Sudan. However, it continues to reject calls to sign the international treaty that established the ICC.
Activists said Wednesday their campaign for justice in Darfur has drawn enormous support from well-respected and prominent individuals, including Nobel laureates Professor Jody Williams and human rights defender Shirin Ebadi.
"If a man kills one person, rapes one girl, or burns down one mosque, we expect that the law should respond," said Ebadi. "Why should this be different when hundreds of civilians are killed and many women raped?"
In a statement, Williams raised particular concern about the victims of rape in Darfur, one of the crimes of which both suspects have been accused.
"The Council must act to help bring justice to the women of Darfur," she said. "Sustainable peace will come only when those who have ordered the use of this war tactic -- as well as those who commit the crime of rape itself -- are brought to justice."
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Albion Monitor June
5, 2008 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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