UN urges trials for 'Darfur hell'

February 17th, 2005  

Topic: UN urges trials for 'Darfur hell'


Source: BBC News

UN urges trials for 'Darfur hell'

The international court in The Hague should try Darfur war crimes suspects, the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights has said.

There can be no hope for sustainable peace without immediate access to justice, Louise Arbour told the UN Security Council in New York.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described the situation in the Sudanese region as "hell on earth".

At least 100,000 people are thought to have died and some 2m are homeless.

The Security Council is debating how best to punish those responsible for atrocities in Darfur.

'Best means'

UN investigators found that Sudanese government forces and pro-government militias had tortured and killed civilians.

The report strongly recommends that those accused of the most serious crimes be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

"The commission in my view eloquently and powerfully argues that referral to the ICC is the best means by which to halt ongoing violations and to prevent future ones," Ms Arbour said.

"With an already existing set of well-defined rules of procedure and evidence, the court is the best-suited institution for enduring speedy investigations leading to arrests and demonstrably fair trials."

She also said that while the report concluded Sudan's government had not pursued a policy of genocide, nothing precluded the possibility of individuals being convicted of such acts.

The commission identified 51 suspects whose names are being kept secret, waiting to be handed over to a "competent prosecutor".

The United States does not back the ICC, fearing its nationals could be subjected to politically motivated trials, and has instead proposed an ad hoc tribunal in Tanzania, where a Rwandan war crimes court is already in place.

Sanctions split

The US has circulated a draft resolution calling for a travel ban and a freeze on the assets of those responsible for the continuing violence in Darfur.

The draft US resolution simply calls for the perpetrators of atrocities to be brought to justice.

The Security Council has been split on whether to impose sanctions on Sudan.

China and Russia have economic ties to the Sudanese government and have blocked previous threats to impose sanctions.

Human rights groups and the US say a genocide has been carried out against Darfur's non-Arab groups.

The UN team said it found no evidence of a genocide policy but said the crimes against humanity and war crimes committed might be no less serious.