Sudan's justice minister rejected Tuesday the International Criminal Court's allegations against a former minister of state and a militia leader accused of war crimes in Darfur, saying that he would not be handed over for trial.
The former minister, Ahmed Muhammed Harun, is known to be a member of President Omar al-Bashir's inner circle and one of the most energetic of the ruling party's younger leaders. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accused him of being the main recruiter and paymaster of the janjaweed, a pro-government militia blamed for the worst atrocities in Darfur.
"We are not concerned with, nor do we accept, what the International Criminal Court prosecutor has opted for," Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardi said.
"Our position (on handing over any indictees) remains the same," Al-Mardi said.
Sudan has repeatedly said it will not respect any indictments handed down by the ICC, and it is not a signatory to the convention that created the international court.
Earlier Tuesday, the ICC's chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo announced in The Hague that Harun, a former minister of state in Sudan's Interior Ministry, and a janjaweed leader, Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, were suspected of a total of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The counts refer to the government's campaign against rebels in the west Sudanese region of Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced in four years of fighting.
Harun was not available for comment Tuesday. A member of the family at his home said he was out of Sudan and expected to return Wednesday.
Trained as a lawyer, Harun is regarded as one of the rising stars of the ruling National Congress Party. At one time he was the youngest minister of state in the government. He was selected for what were seen as difficult tasks because of his diligence and legal training. He hails from the Bargo tribe in western Sudan.
Moreno-Ocampo said Sudanese investigators had told him Kushayb was a "police assistant" who was under arrest while being investigated for the deaths of hundreds of people. Sudan, however, had not filed charges against him, Moreno-Ocampo said.
The prosecution presented a document to the court that alleges Harun and Kushayb were responsible for massacres, mass rapes and the forcible transfer of thousands of civilians from their homes.
The document established a clear link between the Sudanese authorities and the janjaweed.
The government denies backing the janjaweed, but members of the militia have told the media that they were armed by the state. UN and African Union officials have said the government armed the janjaweed and directed its operations.
The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when ethnic African tribesmen took up arms, complaining of decades of neglect and discrimination by the Khartoum government. The government retaliated with a counter-insurgency operation in which the janjaweed played a major role. International Criminal Court names former Sudan minister in Darfur war crimes case.