Egypt says Darfur-indicted war criminals can evade Hague

Japan decides against landmark

but risky peacekeeping deployment to Sudan

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit said Wednesday Sudanese war crimes suspects need not go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if the Sudanese judiciary holds fair trials.

In a first of its kind ruling, the UN Security Council last week referred suspects accused of war crimes in Darfur to the ICC in The Hague. Egypt has said it does not want to see the "internationalization" of Sudan's Darfur conflict.

"The International Criminal Court issues accusations but if the internal judiciary in the country concerned plays its role then it negates the need for the criminal court," Abu al-Gheit said after meeting his Sudanese counterpart in Cairo.

"If there appears to be any reluctance (to prosecute), maneuvering or attempt to dodge these accusations then in this case the International Court will make a move against the accused," Abu al-Gheit added.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave the ICC a list of 51 people suspected of war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

The sealed list was gathered by an independent commission sent by the UN Security Council to Darfur last year, which reported mass killings of civilians, systematic rape and burning of villages.

The list includes the names of government officials, leaders of Arab militia known as Janjaweed, and rebels.

Prosecutor of the criminal court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentine, said that before beginning his own investigation, he would analyze the documents and "admissibility" of the case and called on nations, individuals and organizations to give him information.

Earlier the court, based in the Hague, received nine boxes of documents the commission had gathered in Darfur.

Khartoum has said it would refuse to hand over its citizens to face justice abroad. It says it has already arrested 15 members of the military and security forces for crimes including rape, killing civilians and burning villages in Darfur.

In another development, Japan has decided Sudan is too risky to contribute UN peacekeeping troops, ruling against a mission that would have marked a new breakthrough for the officially pacifist country, government sources were quoted saying Wednesday.

Japan, which sent a team to Sudan last month to study a possible deployment, decided that security in the vast African country was uncertain and that Japan would be stretched thin in light of its mission in Iraq, Kyodo News said. The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said on its Web site that Japan would instead send civilians such as diplomats to help the 10,000-strong Sudan peacekeeping force, which was approved by the UN Security Council on March 24.

The reports quoted unspecified government sources.

But chief Cabinet secretary and government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda said the final decision had yet to be made.

Japan had studied whether to send troops who would disarm combatants as part of the cease-fire ending Sudan's bloody 21-year North-South civil war, in a much riskier operation than Tokyo's previous peacekeeping missions.

Japan has some 600 troops in Iraq on a humanitarian mission in its first military deployment since 1945 to a country where there is active fighting.

The Sudan mission is aimed at shoring up a peace accord between the Arab-dominated government and Southern rebels and gives no specific mandate to operate in the western region of Darfur. - Agencies

Copyright (c) 2005 The Daily Star (Lebanon)

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