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Sudan says arrests 15 officials for Darfur crimes

3/28/2005 1:45pm

KHARTOUM, March 28 (Reuters) - Sudan has for the first time arrested military and security officials accused of rape, killing and burning villages in the Darfur region of western Sudan, the justice minister said on Monday.

Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin told reporters on Monday a government committee had arrested 15 members of the police, military and security forces in Darfur for human rights abuses and they would be sent to court immediately.

"They are military people ... from the army, military and security," Yassin said. "(They are accused of) different crimes. It includes rape, killing, burning and other things -- different kinds of atrocities."

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on a French-drafted resolution which would send those responsible for war crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a step which Sudan opposes.

Yassin said 14 members of the police, army and security forces were under arrest in West Darfur state and one in North Darfur state, but that the committee had not yet finished work.

"The objective of the commission is to investigate criminal offences," he said.

"They are going to investigate ... rape crimes, human rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes," he added.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a rebellion which has raged in remote Darfur for more than two years. Thousands more die every month in the makeshift camps for the almost two million people who have fled their homes in the region the size of France.

The United States calls the violence genocide. A U.N.-appointed commission stopped short of declaring it genocide but said heinous crimes against humanity had taken place.

The commission gave U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a sealed list of 51 people it said should be sent to the ICC.

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