ICC readies for Darfur crimes trial

The International Criminal Court is gearing up for a possible war crimes investigation in Sudan's violence-plagued Darfur region.

    The UN says Darfur is the world's worst humanitarian crisis

    The UN Security Council is expected to vote on Thursday on

    a resolution that would authorise the prosecution of

    Sudanese war crimes suspects by the court, whose creation

    was fiercely opposed by the United States.

    The resolution appeared likelier to pass after US

    officials said Washington was dropping objections to

    sending the Sudan case to the court because

    international pressure was too great, especially from the

    European countries.

    The court was established in July 2002 to prosecute

    individual perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against

    humanity and genocide, but it has not yet tried a case.

    Ninety-eight countries have ratified its founding treaty, but

    the US sought to undermine its powers by signing

    bilateral immunity deals with countries guaranteeing they

    would not hand over US nationals to the court.

    Requesting jurisdiction

    Prosecutors said in January that they would welcome the Darfur

    case if they were given jurisdiction by the United Nations.

    Once prosecutors have jurisdiction, they would begin a

    preliminary analysis to determine whether the crimes fall under

    their authority. A court official

    said the prosecutor would be expected to report

    back to the UN Security Council in weeks

    about launching a formal investigation.

    A case of such magnitude would place the young institution

    at the centre of a conflict that is estimated to have cost

    hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions more.

    It also would put a strain on its 2005 budget of

    around $91 million.

    Prosecutors have said they expect to issue the first

    arrest warrants and begin trials later this year against

    suspects in Uganda and Congo, but officials say they would

    need more money to open such a large-scale investigation.

    Prosecutors are reviewing possible cases in six countries,

    among them Sudan, Ivory Coast and the Central African

    Republic.

    Darfur would pose a great challenge, not least

    because of the danger of sending investigators into a

    conflict zone to prepare cases and interview witnesses.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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