Sudanese minister denies Darfur war crimes claims: report
LONDON (AFP) — Sudanese minister Ahmed Haroun, accused of orchestrating war crimes in Darfur, denied any wrongdoing in an interview published Thursday and branded the allegations a colonialist plot.
"My conscience is clear. I have no regrets," the minister of state for humanitarian affairs told Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
"What I have done was legal, it was my responsibility, it was my duty. I am content. I am at peace with myself."
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Haroun's arrest in April 2007, detailing 51 charges of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed in Sudan's Darfur region in 2003 and 2004.
It says Haroun "intentionally contributed to the commission" of crimes including the murder and rape of civilian populations in Darfur while serving as Sudanese interior minister between April 2003 and September 2005.
Haroun told the Guardian that the ICC -- whose prosecutor also wants to issue a warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir -- was conducting a political vendetta against Sudan that had little to do with justice.
"We believe the ICC has digressed from its main objective and become part of the international political conflict," he said.
"It is another phase of international colonisation. It targets mainly the Africans. It reminds us of the 19th century, when the white people were dominating here in Africa."
He added that the ICC investigation was superfluous, saying a national committee created by Beshir had examined the roles of many senior officials in the Darfur conflict, including himself.
"There was no evidence, so there was no reason to take action," Haroun said.
In July, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the court for an arrest warrant for Beshir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, claiming he personally instructed his forces to wipe out three ethnic groups in Darfur.
Conflict has been raging in the western Sudanese region since 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime.
UN officials estimate that up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been forced to flee their homes.
Khartoum, criticized in the West for brutally trying to suppress the uprising and unleashing Arab proxy militias, claims only 10,000 have died.
In the interview, Haroun said the government had no choice but to act against the rebels and claimed that in response, the rebels created a humanitarian crisis to attract international attention and intervention.
"They started putting pressure on civilians to move out of villages, they killed their children, women they abducted, they destroyed the infrastructure and caused the mass migration of people into refugee camps," he said.