After a 20-month investigation, the International Criminal Court this week named its first two war crimes suspects for attrocities committed in Sudan: Ahmed Haroun, the former interior minister in charge of Darfur (who now oversees "humanitarian affairs" for that government), and Ali Kushayb, a senior commander of the Janjaweed militias, widely blamed for much of the carnage in that region.
Both men stand accused of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Haroun has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, but the prosecutor's statement makes for a compelling read. The document cites eyewitness accounts that tie both men to heinous acts in Darfurincluding torture, murder, and mass rapeand links the government directly to the Janjaweed marauders.
Since 2003, the brutal conflict in Darfur has killed some 200,000 people and displaced nearly 2 million others.
Investigators say they have amassed evidence from 70 visits to 17 countries, including five trips to Sudan. The case now goes to a panel of pretrial judges at the Hague-based court, who will decide whether to issue arrest warrants.
Look for more individuals to be charged by the ICC. Haroun and Kushayb are only two of at least 22 people identified by Human Rights Watch as having responsibility for war crimes in Darfur. Among those on the list: Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal, our Bad Guy of the Week back in November, who boasted on tape about his backing by the government of Sudan.