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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nation insists alleged war criminals must be tried in its own courts
Thursday, June 15, 2006; CNN News.

KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) -- Sudan said on Thursday the International Criminal Court did not have jurisdiction over crimes in the violent Darfur region and no officials would be interrogated by the court.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said he expected to file charges for atrocities in the remote west, where the court had found documentation of mass murders and rapes, adding Sudan's courts were not tackling the same crimes as the ICC.

"If they are here to discuss the progress of trials or the role of national justice then we are ready to give them whatever information they are looking for," said Sudan's Justice Minister Mohammed al-Mardi. "But if the matter is about investigations, then they ... don't have the jurisdiction."

Under the Rome Treaty which formed the court, the ICC cannot indict suspects who have been tried fairly in a competent national court. Sudan signed but has not ratified that treaty.

Human Rights Watch in a report last week alleged Sudan established its own special court for Darfur to offset the work of the ICC and had tried only 13 minor cases since its formation a year ago.

Al-Mardi said national courts were dealing with alleged war crimes and that logistical reasons were slowing them down.

"It is not easy to work in Darfur, he told Reuters. "And I think the ICC will find that too."

Human Rights Watch said the concept of command responsibility for massacres and crimes committed by Sudanese armed forces and allied militia was not present in Sudanese law, requiring the intervention of the ICC.

But Mardi said no Sudanese official would be questioned by the world court. "I don't think that any officials will be interrogated or addressed by the ICC."

Tens of thousands have been killed and 2.5 million forced from their homes in more than three years of rape, pillage and murder called genocide by Washington.

Khartoum denies genocide

Khartoum denies the charge but the U.N. Security Council in an unprecedented move requested the ICC to investigate alleged war crimes in Darfur last year.

Al-Mardi said the ICC was working in a "hasty manner" and warned them against "jumping to conclusions" on the ability of the national judicial system.

He said they were welcome to visit Darfur, but it would take time for a May 5 peace deal to take effect to stem the violence on the ground before it would be secure enough for such a trip.

He said the case of Hamada village had been resolved by tribal reconciliation. Hamada is a village which was attacked in January last year and rights groups said more than 60 civilians died after government Antonov aircraft bombed the area.

Al-Mardi had said in December the investigation into the case had been completed.

"It has been amicably resolved by the parties in the dispute," he said. "The heirs of the deceased appeared ... and signed the reconciliation and blood money was ascertained and compensation for the damage," he said.

He said it would still appear before the court, but did not specify when.

Category: Sudan and The UN.

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