NAIROBI, Kenya—An international prosecutor said Wednesday that Sudanese authorities have done little to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes in Darfur, a finding that could help determine whether Sudanese accused of murders and rapes there could one day face trial in an international court.
In a report to the United Nations Security Council, Luis Moreno Ocampo, a prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, said he has documented thousands of alleged murders in Darfur, but that special courts established by Sudan have heard only a handful of minor cases. Investigations into major cases were moving slowly, if at all, he said.
The four-year-old international court has jurisdiction over war-crimes cases only if local courts aren't investigating or prosecuting the cases. Sudanese officials have said that local courts are capable of deciding cases in Darfur, where government-backed Arab militias have been accused of systematically looting, raping and killing black villagers since 2003. The violence has left at least 200,000 people dead and more than 2 million homeless.
Moreno Ocampo stressed that his probe is ongoing, but he said that so far "it does not appear that the national authorities have investigated or prosecuted, or are investigating and prosecuting, cases" that the international court is interested in pursuing.
A Sudan-backed Darfur Special Court—established 12 months ago, soon after the international court announced its investigation in Darfur—has conducted six trials of fewer than 30 suspects, the report said. Those cases involved mostly low-level military officials.
Sudanese officials said last year that they'd identified about 160 suspects for investigation, but no cases involving significant violations of international humanitarian laws are ready for trial, Moreno Ocampo said.
Authorities have told Moreno Ocampo that they face significant challenges in gathering information, including lack of access to witnesses in areas of Darfur that are controlled by anti-government rebels. A peace agreement signed recently between the rebels and the government has failed to stem the fighting.
The president of one Sudanese court said these challenges are holding up his investigation into a major January 2005 incident in Hamada, in southern Darfur. In that case, Sudanese armed forces teamed with militias for an attack in which more than 100 civilians were killed and more than 30 women were raped.
In a separate incident in Tama, also in southern Darfur, three individuals were convicted of theft and sentenced to short prison terms, but were acquitted of more serious war crimes, the report said.
Investigators from Moreno Ocampo's office have documented thousands of alleged civilian murders, including several massacres in which at least 100 people were killed. In most of the incidents, eyewitnesses reported that their attackers targeted them specifically, saying things such as, "We will kill all the black," Moreno Ocampo wrote.