October 8, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat met today with Ramadan Al-Amamra, Commissioner of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council for discussions on the progress of national proceedings with regards to Darfur war crimes investigations.
Sabdarat told the Sudan official news agency (SUNA) that the meeting tackled specific judicial issues including the work of the Darfur special prosecutor, committees of Darfuri figures established in conjunction with the investigations, modifications to the Sudanese criminal law and the inquiry into the Kalma camp incident.
The Sudanese official said he furnished Al-Amamra with supporting documents outlining Khartoum’s views with regards to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as cases being prosecuted and investigated.
“We had a long and fruitful discussion” Sabdarat said.
Sudan has been racing against time to block ICC efforts to indict president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.
In mid-July the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced that he is seeking an arrest warrant for Al-Bashir.
The ICC’s prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo filed 10 charges: three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity and two of murder. It was only last week that judges have started reviewing the case in a process that could possibly drag on to next year.
A number of regional organizations including the AU, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) condemned Ocampo’s request and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution deferring Al-Bashir’s indictment.
Western countries with veto powers in the UNSC have been hesitant to endorse such a move saying that there needs to be progress on the ground before such a resolution is adopted.
However Al-Amamra stressed today that the AU is attaches great importance to the concept of combating impunity. He also said that his presence in Sudan will enable him to convey a true picture of the situation to the AU, Arab League and United Nations.
The AU official statements today mark a change in tone from the regional organization which quickly voiced its unequivocal support to Khartoum in the wake of the indictment.
In August the AU commission chairman Jean Ping proposed forming a panel of lawyers who would conduct investigations inside Sudan.
He said the lawyers would conduct a similar investigation to that of The Hague-based court in order to show “what the ICC did or did not do”.
But the committee has yet to be formed and it is unclear whether Sudan has agreed to the idea given its insistence that the local judiciary is competent to carry out any investigations.
The following month Al-Amamra watered the proposal and told reporters in Khartoum the AU is working on assembling a team of African figures to conduct an inquiry in Darfur “to contribute in formulating recommendations that enhance the national reconciliation”.
A report created by Sudan and forwarded by the AU to the UNSC last month provided seven examples of cases that were investigated by the Sudanese judiciary as part of its efforts to prosecute war crimes in Darfur.
All the cases date back to the years 2004-2005 but none of them involve any senior Sudanese military or government officials.
The examples shown on the report, deal with assault on aid cars, robbery, mischief and torture.
“The public prosecution of the republic of the Sudan is currently enquiring into a number of criminal suits in the states of Darfur. Such suits will be submitted for trial as soon as the enquiry is completed” the report said.
Sudan also said it dismissed some criminal cases “relating to rape in the most…for lack of evidence”.
The ICC prosecutor told Sudan Tribune in an interview last August that Khartoum established special courts before but “end up investigating no one”.
Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UNSC triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.