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Sudan court for Darfur crimes to open Tuesday

6/13/2005 12:32pm

KHARTOUM, June 13 (AFP) -- Sudan said a special court set up to try alleged Darfur war criminals will open on Tuesday, after officials criticised international attempts to investigate atrocities in the troubled region.
Khartoum said last week that its judiciary was competent to "carry out justice" and that a Darfur-based court would try cases of "violation of honour, murder and looting or property crimes committed in Darfur."

Court chairman Judge Mahmoud Saeed Abkem denied any relationship between his tribunal and The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), which earlier this month announced an inquiry into Darfur atrocities.

But he said 51 suspects named in January as possible perpetrators of war crimes by a UN investigation would be tried "if they are brought to the court by the Sudanese committees of enquiry."

Between 180,000 and 300,000 people have been killed and 2.4 million made homeless in Darfur since an uprising in early 2003 prompted Khartoum to unleash militias in a scorched-earth campaign.

The UN fact-finding mission found evidence of gross human rights violations, including murder, torture and rape, and recommended prosecution of 51 individuals, including security force commanders and high officials.

Most of the suspects named by the UN ivestigation are on the side of the government and its Janjaweed militia allies.

The UN inquiry stopped short of indicating genocide but established that crimes, including murder, torture, rape and plunder had occurred in the suppression of an ethnically-based uprising in the region.

Sudan's President Omar al-Beshir vowed in April never to hand over any Sudanese national to international jurisdiction.

Abkem said the Sudanese court will begin work with internal "committees of enquiry" formed four months ago, adding that some suspects have been apprehended and lawsuits filed against them.

Abkem dismissed fears his court would not be independent because it is linked to the government as "unfounded."

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