Thursday, February 10, 2005

African Union "Sudan Tribunal" for war crimes in Darfur

Unusually, there is an absence of UN Security Council news following its meeting held Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Perhaps council members are hammering out details of a "Sudan Tribunal" proposed by the US.

A report Feb 9 by Washington File UN correspondent details the US proposal of an alternative to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution of violators. What it does not mention though, is how they propose to bring the violators to court. It would be a clever move to get the Africans to decide. Here is an excerpt from the report:

Senior US officials have been meeting with members of the Security Council to work out a way to bring to trial those accused of human rights abuses and war crimes in Darfur. US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Pierre-Richard Prosper says that he and other council members are discussing the merits of various proposals, but the most important issue is "to recognize that response is needed now to ensure effective accountability.

"The key is to stop the violence, the killing," Prosper told journalists after a private meeting with council members. "We know that it's hard to pursue justice when people are continuing to be killed and there's an unstable environment. We've seen that in other parts of the world.

"So the immediate task for the Security Council is to take the measures required to end violence and then we'll be in a position to deal with the justice questions, [and] a timetable," the ambassador said.

The US has proposed a "Sudan Tribunal," created and mandated by a UN Security Council resolution and administered by the UN in conjunction with the African Union (AU). The tribunal would have the authority to prosecute those individuals held responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Darfur from January 1, 2003, to the present.

The proposed tribunal, US officials said, would allow the AU to continue its leadership role while the issue of the accountability for war crimes is pursued by other agencies. It also would contribute to the development of the African Union's overall judicial capacity on the continent.

The United States, which is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, is confident that there are more suitable alternatives for prosecuting those accused of committing war crimes in Darfur, State Department officials said.

The so-called "Sudan Tribunal" would be more appropriate than the ICC in this case because it takes full account of and reinforces the AU role in addressing the Darfur conflict, they said.

Under the US proposal the tribunal would be based in Arusha, Tanzania. It would share the existing physical infrastructure the Security Council created for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda but would have its own judges, registrar, prosecutor, and other personnel appointed by Secretary-General Annan in coordination with the AU.

US officials point out that the ICC has a limited presence in Africa and its staff is now occupied with investigations in Uganda and Congo. The Rwanda Tribunal, in contrast, has extensive infrastructure on the ground and established relationship agreements with governments throughout the continent, and thus there would be no significant difference in cost between the additional costs incurred by the ICC and the UN/AU court.
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Airbus cancels Sudan Airways' 45 million dollar debt: minister


9 Feb (AFP) report via Turkish Press confirms European aviation consortium Airbus Industrie has cancelled the 45-million dollar debt owed to it by Sudan Airways, Sudanese Aviation Minister Ali Tamim Fartak said. In return, the European firm will win the majority of the ailing carrier's contracts for new aircraft of various types to boost its fleet, Fartak told the official SUNA news agency.

Sudan announced last year that it would privatize the national carrier and invite foreign investors to buy shares in a new company. It said the decision had been taken because of losses and debts of millions of dollars.

Officials said 30 percent of the shares of the new firm would be held by the government, 21 percent by Sudanese businessmen and 49 percent by foreign investors yet to come forward.

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