Court issues arrest warrants over Darfur

Published May 3, 2007

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrants Wednesday in the murderous conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, seeking to try a government minister and a janjaweed militia leader on charges of mass slayings, rape and torture. Sudan immediately refused to arrest them.

After studying prosecution evidence for two months, a three-judge panel said the evidence supported 51 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The warrants against Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, and the janjaweed militia's "colonel of colonels, " Ali Kushayb, could be a crucial step toward bringing atrocities in the Sudanese province to international justice.

Fighting between African tribal rebels and the janjaweed in Darfur has left more than 200, 000 dead and displaced 2.5-million in a campaign the United States has called genocide.

Judges also said evidence pointed to a "unified strategy" by Khartoum of using troops, police, intelligence services and the janjaweed to fight rebels. Janjaweed fighters were trained at government camps, paid and armed by Sudanese authorities, and their leaders wore Sudanese Armed Forces or police uniforms, the judges said.

Although human rights groups have long made such claims, Wednesday's announcement marks the first time a panel of international judges have issued a ruling on the strength of the evidence.