Sudan to try 162 over Darfur crimes

Sudan's Justice Minister Ali Mohammed Yassin has confirmed that 162 suspects will appear before a special Sudanese court set up to try alleged Darfur war criminals.

    Justice Minister Ali Yassin did not reveal suspects' identities

    However the court's opening earlier scheduled for Tuesday was put off by a day to Wednesday.

    The official SUNA news agency which quoted the court's chairman Mahmud Saeed Abkem on this gave no reason for the delay.
      
    Justice Minister Yassin said a five-member prosecution team from the attorney-general's office had been formed for the Darfur cases.

    He said the team would represent the prosecution on all charges filed by investigators of crimes allegedly committed in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. 

    However, the minister declined to tell Aljazeera whether any Sudanese officials were among the suspects to be tried.

    Nor did he reveal the identities of the suspects, except that 92 hailed from South Darfur state, 38 from North Darfur and 32 from West Darfur.

    Civil war in Darfur has displaced
    2.4 million people

    "The court will be an alternative to the International Criminal Court (ICC)," said the justice minister, adding that Sudan had prepared a letter for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on procedures leading to the establishment of the court.
      
    The announcement comes a week after the ICC said it had launched an inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.
      
    Reaction

    One human rights group reacted to the announcement with scepticism.

    Amnesty International says the Sudanese court lacks credibility unless Khartoum carries out "serious legal reforms ensuring independence of the judiciary".
      
    "We fear that the establishment of the special court may just be a tactic by the Sudanese government to avoid prosecution" by the ICC, said Kolawole Olaniyan, the director of Amnesty's Africa programme. 
      

    "We fear that the establishment of the special court may just be a tactic by the Sudanese government to avoid prosecution"

    Kolawole Olaniyan,


    Amnesty director

    "On the one hand, the Sudanese government is claiming that it is able to punish the crimes it is accused of condoning for the last two years," he said in a statement.
      
    "On the other hand, it continues to crack down on those who expose or criticise such human rights violations."
      
    ICC comment

    Khartoum argued last week that its judiciary was competent to "carry out justice" and that a Darfur-based court would try cases of "violation of honour, murder and looting or property crimes committed in Darfur". 
      
    The special court's chairman, Judge Mahmoud Saeed Abkam, denied any relationship between the Sudanese tribunal and The Hague-based ICC.
      
    Between 180,000 and 300,000 people have been killed and 2.4 million made homeless in Darfur since an uprising in early 2003, after which Khartoum is alleged to have backed nomadic tribes to carry out a scorched-earth campaign.
      
    Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir vowed in April never to hand over any Sudanese national to international jurisdiction. 

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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