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Sudan eyes Darfur war crimes court in 2-3 months

5/21/2005 10:29am

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING, May 21 (Reuters) - Sudan, which has rejected trying its citizens in a foreign court, could announce the make-up of a tribunal to try people accused of war crimes in the troubled region of Darfur soon, a senior official said on Saturday.

The U.N. Security Council in March referred Darfur war crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. But it also left the door open for Sudan to hold its own trials provided these were credible, saying the ICC should encourage such domestic efforts.

"We are working closely with the African Union. I would expect soon the name of the court is going to be announced, the judge and also the prosecutor-general," Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told a news conference during a trip to China.

A committee led by the minister for justice is expected to finalise and make public the details soon.

"I wouldn't think it would take that long, I wouldn't think it would take (as long as) two or three months," he said.

Sudanese officials have rejected the possibility of the country's citizens being tried in a foreign court, and the Rome Statute which created the ICC says that suspects tried in credible and just proceedings in their own country cannot be tried again at The Hague-based tribunal.

Legal experts have said it could be hard for the government to convince the ICC that Sudan could hold such trials, however.

Ismail said the tribunal would be open to scrutiny. "The place is going to be open for the media, it is going to be supervised by Africans," he said.

A top U.N. official said on Thursday the world needed to exert more pressure to resolve the two-year old conflict, which began when rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government, complaining of discrimination.

Khartoum is accused of retaliating by arming militias who burned villages and killed and raped civilians. At least 180,000 people have died from violence, hunger and disease, and more than 2 million people have been displaced.

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