Sudan must form new court for Darfur: Mbeki

Sudan should set up a court which includes foreign judges to try the gravest crimes committed in Darfur, according to an African Union report obtained by Reuters today.
The 148-page report’s findings on justice for the victims in Darfur recommended that Sudan’s judicial system, which faces a crisis of confidence, needs to be strengthened to cope with such cases.
The document, compiled by a panel headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, said Khartoum should accept non-Sudanese help to investigate and try atrocities in Darfur.
“It will require a strengthening of the existing system with new mechanisms, including a special criminal chamber which shall be a hybrid court drawing on the expertise of qualified and appropriate judges from outside Sudan,” it said.
It said judges need not only be African. However, the court should operate within the Sudanese judicial system and work alongside traditional justice mechanisms.
Sudanese law should be amended to fully incorporate international law, and the country’s security forces should no longer enjoy immunity from prosecution.
The report’s findings had been keenly awaited as the African Union had supported Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued a warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur this year.
The report did not take a position on the ICC’s arrest warrant for Bashir but said the ICC investigation should be included on the agenda of Darfur peace talks.
The report had not been expected to be made public before an AU Peace and Security Council meeting later this month.
The report also said a truth, justice and reconciliation commission should be formed as a part of any Darfur peace deal.
The United Nations estimates 300 000 people have died in Darfur and more than 2 million have been driven from their homes since a major insurgency erupted in early 2003. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10000.
Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of neglecting Darfur in western Sudan. Khartoum mobilised militia to quell the revolt, sparking one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Large-scale fighting has subsided in Darfur, a conflict described at its height by Washington as genocide. Sporadic clashes continue, however, and a collapse of law and order means that perpetrators of violence are rarely brought to justice.
The Obama administration last week announced its policy on Sudan, renewing economic sanctions but offering incentives to end violence in Darfur as well as in the semi-autonomous south.
In its report, the AU panel recommended that legal obstacles blocking rape prosecutions should be removed. Khartoum has long denied that rape has been widespread in Darfur and has expelled aid agencies working to help victims.
The report said there was no evidence that “the crime of rape has been accorded the attention it deserves” and Sudanese law had “forbidding obstacles” to proving rape.
The AU panel said Darfur peace talks, long delayed by rebel divisions and continued clashes on the ground, urgently needed to reach agreement ahead of Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years, which are due in less than six months.

Pic: Fomer SA President- Thabo Mbeki