Prosecutor Briefs U.N. on Alleged Crimes in Darfur
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This is the day that a prosecutor steps before the United Nations Security Council. He comes from the International Criminal Court. He's been investigating war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan, and for the first time he says he is ready to begin a case. His move comes just as the world looks for ways to get peacekeepers to the scene of what the U.S. has described as genocide.
Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.
MICHELE KELEMEN: Argentinean prosecutor Luis Morena Ocampo says he's finished his first investigation into some of the worst crimes in Darfur, Sudan.
Mr. LUIS MORENA OCAMPO (International Criminal Court): We basically are proving massive rapes, execution of prisoners, pillaging of entire cities. We have charges of crimes against humanity, persecution, willful killings, rape, torture, and forcible transfer of civilians, and also have different type of war crimes.
KELEMEN: Ocampo doesn't plan to name names; that will happen only when he appears before the judges at the International Criminal Court, which goes after war criminals when governments can't or won't.
Mr. OCAMPO: Our evidence will show how the system works. Our investigation has revealed the underlying operational system that enabled massive crimes. Now we are able to pinpoint the individuals who bear the greatest responsibility for these crimes.
KELEMEN: The U.S. doesn't support the court, but it abstained when the Security Council voted to ask the ICC to investigate crimes in Darfur. Ocampo says the U.S. didn't provide any information for his case, and he didn't ask. He also didn't actually go to Darfur. He said he couldn't protect witnesses in the ongoing conflict. Instead, his team of 24 investigators met with Sudanese officials in Khartum and with Darfuris abroad.
Mr. OCAMPO: The victims are so desperate for justice that when we call someone in some country to say, look, we need to talk to you, they feel honored. They say, oh, we are waiting for you.
KELEMEN: The U.N.'s new Human Rights Council has also taken its first steps to investigate crimes in Darfur after being criticized for being too slow to tackle the issue. All this comes as the U.S. and its allies express increasing frustration with Sudan, which is refusing to allow the United Nations to help run what's currently a weak African Union monitoring force in Darfur. President Bush's envoy, who has been in the region this week, has been pushing Sudan to accept a peacekeeping force by the end of this year. But what is plan B? Well, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested enforcing a no-fly zone. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack would only say the U.S. is weighing its options.
Mr. SEAN MCCORMACK (State Department Spokesman): The humanitarian and security situation in Darfur just is not tolerable.
KELEMEN: The U.S. first labeled Darfur a genocide over two years ago, accusing Sudan of unleashing the so-called Janjuid militia in a counter-insurgency campaign that targeted civilians. The conflict has since spread to Chad and the Central African Republic, and has grown more complex, according to Kenro Oshidari, who runs the World Food Program's office in Sudan.
Mr. KENRO OSHIDARI (World Food Program): It's not always easy to tell who is in control of certain locations. The front lines are always shifting. When we have to deliver our assistance to remote locations, we always need to negotiate access, and we're not always sure who we are supposed to be negotiating with.
KELEMEN: There have been several cases recently when the U.N. has had to pull its aid workers out of Darfur because of intense fighting. Oshidari was here in Washington recently, trying to lock in more aid commitments from the U.S. - the WFP's biggest donor for Darfur - and he talked about just how unpredictable the security situation is for aid workers and for the civilians they help.
Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.