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ICC Names 1st Suspects for War Crimes in Darfur
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Prosecutors for the International Criminal Court on Tuesday named a former Sudan minister and a militia commander as the first suspects for war crimes in the Darfur conflict.

Concluding an investigation lasting 20 months, the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said there are reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects were jointly responsible for 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against civilians in Darfur between 2003 and 2004.

Ahmad Muhammad Harun, former Sudan Interior Minister in charge of the western Darfur region, was allegedly in conspiracy with the militia to carry out indiscriminate attacks against civilians in a counterinsurgency campaign by the Sudanese government against the rebels.

According to ICC prosecutors, Harun helped recruit, fund and arm the Arab Janjaweed militia "that would ultimately number in the tens thousands."

Ali Kushayb, one of the key leaders commanding thousands of militia, was accused of victimizing the civilian populations through mass rape, killings, torture, looting and other alleged criminal acts.

A pre-trial chamber of the ICC will decide whether to start trial over the case and may issue international arrest warrants or summonses to the suspects to appear in court.

The ICC criminal investigation was triggered after the United Nations Security Council referred the Darfur situation to the Hague-based court in March 2005, a decision opposed by Sudan, which insisted on its own prosecution.

The ICC is only supposed to intervene when national courts are unwilling or unable to act. But the ICC prosecution said their case would be admissible because it covers more extensive allegations than the investigations launched by Sudan.

The ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, was established in 1998 by a multinational treaty called Rome Statute, which entered into force four years later and has been adopted by 104 countries.

The court tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Fighting in Darfur flared in early 2003 after rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government. The UN says some 200,000 people have died as a result of the conflict, while another 2.5 million have been forced from their homes.

(Xinhua News Agency February 28, 2007)

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