For Immediate Release: November 20, 2008
WASHINGTON – Human Rights First welcomes today’s request by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for arrest warrants for Darfur rebel commanders. The request is based on charges that these commanders orchestrated a deadly attack on African Union peacekeepers at Haskanita, North Darfur, in September 2007, killing 12 soldiers and injuring eight more.
“The murder of 12 African peacekeepers at Haskanita was an egregious violation of the laws of war, and those who orchestrated it must be brought to justice,” said Julia Fromholz, interim director of the Crimes against Humanity program at Human Rights First.
According to article 7 of the Rome Statute of the ICC, intentional attacks on humanitarian or peacekeeping operations are war crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In the past few months, however, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers have been increasingly targeted by both the Sudanese army and rebel groups. One hundred and seventy humanitarian workers were kidnapped or abducted and 11 killed in the first nine months of 2008.
“Over 2 million Darfuris have been displaced by the war waged against them by the Sudanese government and they depend entirely on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers for their security and survival,” explained Fromholz. “The prosecutor’s request is welcome, not only because it brings hope of justice for the families of the murdered peacekeepers, but because it sends the warring parties a strong message: violence against peacekeepers and humanitarian workers is intolerable and will not go unpunished.”
In his application, the Prosecutor did not reveal the identities of the three rebel commanders for whom he has requested arrest warrants. However, in an earlier report to the United Nations Security Council, the Prosecutor specified that his investigation was focusing on two splinter rebel factions.
The case regarding the attack on Haskanita, a military base in North Darfur, is the third opened by the ICC Prosecutor in connection with the conflict in Darfur since the situation was referred to the ICC by the Security Council in June 2005. Arrest warrants have already been issued by the Court for a Janjaweed militia leader, Ali Kushayb, and for Sudan’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Harun. In July 2008, the Prosecutor requested a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Judges at the Court are currently deliberating on this request.