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Sudan slams rights group report on Darfur

12/13/2005 8:36am

By Opheera McDoom

Khartoum - The Sudanese government dismissed as "ridiculous" a human rights group's report saying officials at the highest level of government were responsible for abuses in Darfur and should be investigated for war crimes.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Sunday saying Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and 20 other government and army officials and militia leaders should be scrutinised for ordering, condoning or carrying out atrocities.

HRW said it based its report on eyewitness accounts, government papers and its own investigations.

Senior Foreign Ministry official Mutrif Siddig responded on Monday saying, "This report is highly politicised.

This report is ridiculous, it is baseless, it depends on the propaganda and the campaigns of the rebel groups."

The 85-page report said the government, armed forces and militias were responsible for systematic attacks against civilians and implemented a culture of impunity during the violence, which the United States calls genocide. Khartoum denies the charge.

The report was prepared for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to use in their investigation into alleged war crimes in Darfur. Chief ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is to address the Security Council on Tuesday.

Siddig said the rights group did not have investigators on the ground and was biased against the Sudanese government and against Muslims in general.

"They are serving objectives which are contrary to peace, and which are contrary to the institutions that are set up by the United Nations themselves," he added.

He declined to say whether the government, which has rejected the trial of any Sudanese citizen in courts outside the country, would allow ICC investigators to enter the country. Sudan has signed but not ratified the convention establishing the ICC.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2-million forced from their homes during a revolt launched by mostly non-Arab rebels who accused the Arab-dominated central government of marginalisation.

UN sources said ICC officials had been to Khartoum in recent weeks to discuss the arrest of Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) who are believed to be hiding in Sudan's lawless south.

Siddig declined to confirm the visit but said the government would cooperate with the ICC on the LRA. However he said the Sudanese judicial system, including a special national court set up early this year, was capable of trying any crimes in Darfur.

Justice ministry officials said on Monday three separate courts had now been established in Darfur to speed up the process. The head of the court, Mahmoud Mohamed Saeed Abkam, said only six cases, of robbery, rape and torture, had been tried and no cases were pending.

But he said he was satisfied with the court's progress.

"We found no cases against important government officials, we found no cases concerning high-ranking officers, he told Reuters. "I think that we have done everything possible and we are satisfied with what we have done."

Abkam said he was sure no cases of mass rape or mass murder were being investigated, as documented by a UN-appointed commission of inquiry and rights groups. He declined to comment why no investigations were being undertaken

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