UNITED NATIONS — UNITED NATIONS -- The International Criminal Court issued its first arrest warrants yesterday for a Sudanese government minister and a former militia leader accused of war crimes in Sudan's western Darfur region.
Sudanese officials, however, said they would not hand over the accused pair, who were charged with dozens of counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The case alleges that the government joined with militia groups in systematic attacks against civilians in Darfur as part of an effort to combat rebel movements.
The attacks have killed more than 200,000 people and displaced more than 2 million over the past four years.
The Sudanese government denies backing the militias, known as janjaweed.
The move by the court is a strong indication that it believes the Khartoum government is unlikely to fulfill its promise to prosecute the pair through its own judicial system. The court has jurisdiction only when a suspect's country fails to put suspects on trial.
But how the warrants are handled by Sudan could be a test case for the fledgling court. Though Sudan made initial gestures toward cooperation with the ICC, officials said yesterday that Sudan is not a signatory to the court and doesn't recognize its actions.
The court, however, has no ability to serve the warrants. It must rely on the good will of governments to deliver the suspects.
The wanted government official, Ahmed Haroun, is Sudan's minister of humanitarian affairs. The court charges that while he was a minister of state in charge of the "Darfur Security Desk" from 2003-2005, he encouraged attacks on civilians and pillaging of villages in western Darfur. The warrant lists 42 counts against Haroun, linked to a series of attacks.
The second suspect, the imprisoned militia leader known as Ali Kushayb, was a top militia leader who mediated between the armed groups and Sudan's government, the warrant said. He is charged with 50 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, torture and pillaging.