The UN Security Council late on Thursday voted 11-0 with four abstentions to refer a sealed list of 51 accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), after last-minute wrangling to allow exemptions for US citizens. The resolution is the first referral to the ICC by the council.

 

"This is a big day for justice in our country," the leader of the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), said on Friday.

 

"If my name is on that list, or any other member of our movement, we are ready to go because we are just fighting for justice," Abd al-Wahid Muhammad al-Nur said. 

 

Change of venue

 

The list, which includes senior Sudanese government and army officials, Arab militia leaders, some rebel leaders and foreign army commanders, will, however, remain sealed in the office

of the UN secretary-general until the Security Council decides

which court they would be referred to. 

 

Some rebels said resolution
encouraging, but not enough

The other main Darfur rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), said it welcomed the resolution, adding it would contribute positively to finding a political resolution to the conflict after a series of failed African Union-sponsored peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

 

"We are congratulating the Security Council members and the

Sudanese population on this resolution," said JEM spokesman

Taj al-Din Nyam. He said JEM would be much more open to returning to talks in Abuja now. He also said JEM would be willing to send any member of its group to the ICC, if accused.

 

The SLA's Nur said the resolution was encouraging but was not enough. "Our position is clear: justice before peace," he

said, adding that the court needed to start the trials before

peace talks resumed, as both the groups declared last month.

 

African Union

 

Nur also said he did not want African Union (AU) mediation in the talks any more, but preferred a major UN role and a change in venue to either South Africa, Senegal or Eritrea, which hosts the rebels and has sour relations with Sudan.

 

"Our position is clear: justice before peace"

Abd al-Wahid Muhammad
al-Nur, SLA chief

"The AU has totally lost its credibility," he said, citing
Nigeria's suggestion to the United Nations that an African court try the Darfur accused rather than the ICC. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is the AU chairman.

 

Tens of thousands have died over more than two years of open rebellion in Darfur by non-Arabs who accuse Khartoum of neglect and preferential treatment of Arab tribes in the remote region.

 

The United Nations says the government retaliated by arming

Arab militias, known locally as Janjawid, who now stand accused of a widespread campaign of rape, killing and burning in non-Arab villages.

 

Khartoum admits arming some militias to fight the rebels, but denies any links to the Janjawid, calling them outlaws.