As the Darfur genocide enters its fifth year, and nearly two years after UN Security Council Resolution 1593 of March 2005 referred violations of international law in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), on Feb. 27 ICC prosecutors formally identified two of those responsible for slaughter—Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman (nom de guerre Ali Kushayb) and Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ahmed Harun. Under Article 58 of the Rome Statute that created the ICC, evidence of crimes against humanity will now be submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber, which will, in the words of the official summary of the Prosecutor’s Application, “review the evidence submitted and decide how to proceed.”
Khartoum responded to the move by saying the ICC has no jurisdiction in Sudan. “All the evidence the prosecutor refers to is lies given to him by people who bear arms against the state, bear arms against citizens and kill innocent citizens in Darfur,” said Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi. He emphasized that Sudan is not a signatory to the 1998 treaty that established the ICC.
Human rights groups welcomed the announcement. “The clear message from these prosecutions is that the world is watching, and the high and mighty are not immune,” said Gareth Evans of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
Others were more skeptical. Writes Eric Reeves for the France-based Sudan Times: “It is a misnomer to describe today’s actions as the issuing of ‘indictments’: lead ICC Prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo has presented evidence, in a 94-page ‘Application,’ that will be assessed by the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber. This assessment is evidently a very slow process, and creates for Darfur an even more dilatory time-frame for the workings of justice and meaningful accountability. Moreno-Ocampo has said, ‘it could take several months for the ICC judges to decide on whether to issue summons or arrest warrants.’ What we have at present, then, is the public naming of two particularly vicious actors in the Darfur genocide, but with no prospect of extradition, justice—or deterrence.” (The Independent, Feb. 28; Sudan Times, Feb. 27).
Hopefully, it is not necessary to comment on the Orwellian nature of Mr. Ahmed Harun’s title.