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by CNN News, Thursday, June 15, 2006.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N.-backed court probing war crimes in Darfur has documented thousands of civilian deaths, hundreds of alleged rapes and a "significant number" of massacres that killed hundreds of people at once, the top prosecutor said Wednesday.

Many witnesses and victims have reported that three ethnic groups in particular -- the Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa -- had been singled out for attack in Darfur, Luis Moreno Ocampo said in a report to the Security Council.

Those details are among the strongest indication so far that Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor with the International Criminal Court, has uncovered substantial evidence of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

"In most of the incidents ... there are eyewitness accounts that the perpetrators made statements reinforcing the targeted nature of the attacks, such as 'we will kill all the black' and 'we will drive you out of this land,"' his report said.

A special U.N. investigative commission concluded in January, 2005 that crimes against humanity had occurred in Darfur, where some 180,000 people have died as a result of violence that flared in 2003. Three months later, the Security Council charged the Hague-based ICC, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, with prosecuting those behind the slaughter.

The United States has opposed the ICC but agreed to let the referral go forward. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who in the past had strongly criticized the ICC, did not attend Moreno Ocampo's briefing because he was meeting with the U.N. Staff Union.

In his report to the council, Moreno Ocampo said his office had received reports of hundreds of rapes, but that it had evidence of significant underreporting as well.

The three black tribes that Moreno Ocampo mentioned were among those that rebelled against what they regarded as unjust treatment by the Sudanese government in February 2003.

The government is accused of backing Arab militia known as Janjaweed in attacking villagers from those tribes in Darfur. The government denies supporting the Janjaweed but agreed under a May 5 peace agreement with the largest rebel group to disarm and disband them.

Moreno Ocampo also laid out his strategy for prosecuting the perpetrators, saying he would focus on several incidents of mass killings for detailed study and then bring forth cases for prosecution as each one is finished.

"My office currently anticipates the investigation and prosecution of a series of cases, rather than a single case dealing with the situation in Darfur as a whole," he said.

In addition, Sudan's national courts have shown little desire to investigate alleged crimes against humanity, despite Khartoum's claims that they should pursue those allegations. Sudan has repeatedly insisted that there's no need for Moreno Ocampo to get involved in Darfur.

One of Sudan's courts, for example, has held just six trials of less than 30 people -- and they were charged with robbery, possessing weapons without a license and receiving stolen goods. Only two faced allegations of murder and one of rape.

"The president of the special court has stated that no cases involving serious violations of international humanitarian law were ready for trial," Moreno Ocampo said.

Sudan's Ambassador to the U.N., Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa insisted that his country's judicial system was bringing perpetrators of crimes in Darfur to justice.

"Special courts have been established which have issued many sentences in many specific crimes which have varied between execution and life imprisonment," Erwa said.

Nonetheless, Moreno Ocampo said Sudan had cooperated by granting interview requests and allowing his team to visit southern Sudan. He also planned to send investigators to do more interviews in August.

Moreno Ocampo said Darfur was still too dangerous for his investigators to work there. The main problem, he said, was that there was no way to ensure the safety of witnesses.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Category: Sudan and The UN.

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