By ANTHONY DEUTSCH, Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Apr 5, 2005 (AP) — The United Nations turned over evidence it has gathered about atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday, a preliminary step to possible war crimes prosecutions.
A security guard stands near boxes of documents in front of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, Tuesday, April 5, 2005. (AP).
Nine boxes of documents gathered last year by a special U.N. commission were driven overnight from Geneva to the fledgling court in The Hague. Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was to receive a sealed list of 51 suspects from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York later Tuesday.
Moreno-Ocampo’s deputy in The Hague said prosecutors will analyze the U.N. evidence and decide if the case falls within the court’s jurisdiction and merits a formal investigation.
The western Sudanese region of Darfur is the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. A counterinsurgency campaign led by government-supported Arab militias against black African farmers has left tens of thousands dead since February 2003.
The International Criminal Court, or ICC, was asked to look at the case last week by a U.N. Security Council resolution. The U.S. government, which opposes the court due to fears it will try to prosecute Americans for political reasons, abstained — effectively turning the case over to the ICC.
Washington believes the killing in Sudan amounts to genocide, and stopping it is more important than opposing the court. The U.N. commission found evidence of widespread killings, rape and displacement in Darfur, but not genocide.
The ICC’s deputy prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Tuesday prosecutors would not necessarily follow the U.N.’s findings either in terms of suspects or crimes to be prosecuted.
He said it was too early to say when a formal investigation would begin and that he hoped the Sudanese government would cooperate with prosecutors.
Sources within the ICC told the Associated Press last week that around two dozen prosecution investigators are preparing to travel to Sudan.
The ICC was created to prosecute individual perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed after July 2002. It has yet to try its first case.