ICC alleges ethnic massacres in Darfur
|The Guardian , 15 Juin 2006|
The International Criminal Court has documented the massacre and rape of thousands of civilians in Darfur, according to its top prosecutor.
Investigators found evidence of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in the war-torn Sudanese province, Luis Moreno Ocampo said in a report submitted on Wednesday to the UN security council.
Witnesses said three ethnic groups - the relatively dark-skinned Fur, Massalit and Zaghawa - were singled out for persecution by forces loyal to the government in Khartoum.
"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,'" the report said.
Tribes in the western province rebelled in 2003, provoking a crackdown by the Sudanese military and a pro-government Arab militia known as the Janjaweed.
Two million people have been displaced and more than 180,000 killed in what has been described by some aid agencies as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
A UN investigative commission concluded last year that crimes against humanity had been committed. The security council charged the international criminal court, which is based in the Hague, to prosecute those responsible.
Mr Moreno Ocampo said his investigators had compiled a Darfur crimes database which documented thousands of civilian deaths, hundreds of alleged rapes and several massacres. He also said the Sudanese authorities had failed to prosecute the alleged perpetrators, giving the ICC an opportunity and duty to fill the vacuum.
The prosecutor said his team, which had not gained access to the province because of security concerns, would focus on several massacres and press charges as each investigation was concluded.
"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. Khartoum was cooperating with his team, he added.
Sudan's ambassador to the UN, Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa, told reporters his country's judicial system had prosecuted, convicted and sentenced many people for crimes in Darfur.