Sudan's defense minister sought by int'l court

March 1, 2012 - 12:46 PM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Thursday for Sudan's defense minister, the third senior regime official sought by the court for alleged involvement in atrocities in Darfur.

The court announced it wants Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein arrested on a warrant containing seven counts of crimes against humanity and six war crimes including murder, persecution, rape and torture. The charges cover 41 different incidents, the court said.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked judges for the warrant in December, saying Hussein is among those who "bear greatest criminal responsibility" for atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region from August 2003 to March 2004.

Sudan does not recognize the court and refuses to hand over suspects including President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide in Darfur. His government denounced Moreno-Ocampo's request for an arrest warrant for Hussein in December.

At the time covered by the charges, Hussein was interior minister and the Sudan government's special representative in Darfur.

He is accused of overseeing a state-sponsored plan to attack villages in western Darfur. Prosecutors say the attacks were carefully planned, with government troops surrounding the villages, air force planes bombing them and then soldiers, including janjaweed militia fighters, descending on the ruins, raping and killing those who survived the initial onslaught.

The court said in a statement that judges believe Hussein "made essential contributions to the formulation and implementation of the common plan" to attack Darfur by coordinating "national, state and local security entities and through the recruitment, arming and funding of the police forces and the Militia/Janjaweed in Darfur."

The court said his arrest "appears to be necessary to ensure his appearance at trial and to ensure that he will not obstruct or endanger the investigations."

Darfur was plunged into turmoil in 2003, when ethnic African rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government, whom they accused of discrimination.

The Khartoum government is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians — a charge the government denies. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.

The conflict has tapered off since 2009. Several rebel groups have signed peace deals with the government but Darfur's two main rebel factions, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement, have not.

International warrants for al-Bashir and another government minister have so far failed to lead to their arrest and al-Bashir has even traveled to friendly nations without being detained.

The court, set up in 2002 to prosecute the most senior perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes from nations that cannot or will not put them on trial, has no police force of its own to arrest suspects.

Sudan is not a member of the court, but Moreno-Ocampo has jurisdiction there because the United Nations Security Council asked him to investigate atrocities in Darfur.