[JURIST] Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court [official website] asked a panel of ICC judges Tuesday to issue summonses for two top suspects accused of committing war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan. The call was the first action taken against individuals in the ICC's ongoing investigation [JURIST news archive] of the Darfur situation. In his application [PDF text; annexes; summary, PDF], Moreno-Ocampo accused former Sudanese Interior Minister Ahmad Muhammad Harun and militia leader Ali Kushayb of "jointly committed crimes against the civilian population in Darfur." Haroun currently serves as the Sudanese state humanitarian affairs minister, which is not a full ministerial position. According to an ICC press release:
Based on evidence collected during the last 20 months, the Prosecution has concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, (also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman) bear criminal responsibility in relation to 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes. The evidence shows they acted together, and with others, with the common purpose of carrying out attacks against the civilian populations.
Moreno-Ocampo's application was filed under Article 58(7) of the ICC's governing Rome Statute [PDF text], which states:
As an alternative to seeking a warrant of arrest, the Prosecutor may submit an application requesting that the Pre-Trial Chamber issue a summons for the person to appear. If the Pre-Trial Chamber is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed the crime alleged and that a summons is sufficient to ensure the person's appearance, it shall issue the summons, with or without conditions restricting liberty (other than detention) if provided for by national law, for the person to appear.
The ICC began its investigation of crimes in Darfur [ICC fact sheet, PDF; ICC situation materials] in 2005 after the situation was referred [JURIST report] to the court by the UN Security Council.
Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only prosecute individuals for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity when a state is unwilling or unable to genuinely prosecute. Sudan has repeatedly rejected the ICC's jurisdiction [JURIST report] over the Darfur situation, a sentiment reiterated Tuesday Sudanese Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi. In a news conference following Moreno-Ocampo's filing at the ICC, al-Mardi said that Sudan already has Ali Kushayb in custody [Sudan Tribune report] and said that Moreno-Ocampo's evidence was based on lies told ICC investigators by "people who bear arms against the state, bear arms against citizens and kill innocent citizens in Darfur." Also Tuesday, a top advisor to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir told the Sudan News Agency that the government would reject any trial [SUNA report] of Sudanese nationals outside the country.
Moreno-Ocampo addressed these concerns in his own press briefing [transcript] Tuesday:
The Government of the Sudan informed the Prosecution that Ali KUSHAYB is under criminal investigation and was arrested on the 28th of November 2006.
Our case is about Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb joining each other to attack the civilian population in Darfur. There is no such investigation in the Sudan.
On this basis, the Prosecution has concluded that the case is admissible. To be clear, the admissibility assessment is not a judgement on the Sudanese justice system as a whole. We are just assessing if the Sudanese authorities are carrying out the same case.
Reuters has more.