(AFP) – Aug 6, 2008
KHARTOUM (AFP) — Sudanese Justice Minister Abdul Basit Sabdarat has appointed a special prosecutor to probe alleged crimes in the war-torn western region of Darfur and with the power to take cases to court.
The move came three weeks after the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor requested an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.
Sudan flatly refuses any recognition or dealings with the ICC. Instead Khartoum has pressed a diplomatic campaign to freeze any proceedings against Beshir and insists on the effectiveness of its own courts.
"I have signed a decision to name a prosecutor for crimes in Darfur from 2003 until now," Sabdarat told reporters at his ministry Tuesday.
"I have given him the authority to investigate these crimes and go to a judge if he finds cases," Sabdarat added.
He named the incoming prosecutor as Nimer Ibrahim Mohamed, supported by three assistants: Kamal Mahgoub Ahmed, Al-Hadi Makkawi and Mamoun Mekki.
The move was swiftly criticised by some legal experts as a media stunt.
"This is too little, too late. No prosecutor or committee can do anything unless the Sudan legal system is reformed," said Kamal Omar, a defence lawyer representing Darfur rebels sentenced to death for a May attack on Khartoum.
"There is no mention in Sudanese law of crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing or war crimes. So announcing this prosecutor or committee is just a media stunt," Omar told AFP.
The Sudan Media Centre, which is close to the intelligence services, reported on Monday that the justice ministry is making arrangements to draft new legislation that would incorporate crimes listed in international law.
It also said the ministry would send legal teams to the three states that make up Darfur, a vast arid region roughly the same size as France and gripped by conflict for five years, to monitor the situation on the ground.
On July 14, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused Beshir of ordering his forces to annihilate three non-Arab groups in Darfur, masterminding murder, torture, pillage and the use of rape to commit genocide.
If approved by a panel of three judges, it would the first ICC arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.
Both African Union and Arab League officials say Sudan has agreed to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Darfur.
On July 23, a senior Arab League official said Sudan had agreed to set up special courts to try alleged human rights abuses in Darfur which will be monitored by international bodies including the UN.
The African Union is drawing up a list of top lawyers to probe the situation in Sudan and work with the government after the ICC accusations.
But previous Sudanese promises to try alleged Darfur war crimes have not materialised into credible trials that would see the ICC drop its charges.
Two other Sudanese facing longstanding ICC arrest warrants -- cabinet minister Ahmed Haroun and Arab militia leader Ali Kosheib -- were due to be tried in Sudanese courts on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But Kosheib's trial was indefinitely suspended in March 2007 and Harun was briefly detained and released last October for lack of evidence.
According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in February 2003.
Sudan accuses the West of exaggerating the conflict and says that 10,000 people have been killed.
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