- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The United States asked the U.N. Security Council yesterday to establish an Africa-based tribunal for war crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region, to impose sanctions on the Khartoum government and to create a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country.

Diplomats predicted serious resistance to the first two proposals, which come a day after a report by the United Nations said war crimes and crimes against humanity had occurred in Darfur. The report stopped short of describing the crimes as genocide.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and most council members, including Britain and France, favor referring the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, a move the Bush administration strongly opposes. Only a few countries reject sanctions on Sudan, but two of them, China and Russia, have veto power in the Security Council.

Nevertheless, the administration said it is ready for a battle and is determined to “aggressively” seek an end to the violence and accountability for its perpetrators.

“It’s time to move toward sanctions,” beginning with an oil embargo, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters, even as he acknowledged the difficulty of the task.

“We’ve also put forward specific ideas for targeted sanctions — an assets freeze and a travel ban [on officials and others], as well as the extension of the arms embargo to the Sudanese government,” he said.

China and Russia have a substantial stake in Sudan’s oil and weapons industries and say their business dealings should not fall victim to political actions.

“We are also proposing the establishment of a U.N. peacekeeping mission for Sudan that can support the African Union and the eventual deployment to Darfur, as conditions permit,” Mr. Boucher said.

He declined to be more specific, saying U.S. diplomats are discussing details with other council members in New York.

The biggest showdown during the negotiations will involve the tribunal issue, diplomats said.

“We believe that the best way to address these crimes, as detailed in the report, is to establish a U.N. and African Union tribunal that would be based in Arusha, Tanzania,” Mr. Boucher said.

A senior State Department official said last month that allowing the ICC to take charge of the Darfur case would cut the United States out of the process, because it is not a party to the court and because the Security Council does not supervise the tribunal.

“The ICC is a total non-starter,” the official said. “It’s not subject to any oversight, and we have a law that says we can’t cooperate with it, so it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to contribute to the case.”

The administration refused to join the ICC because of fears that the court will be used for politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. officials and military personnel.

The Monday report by a U.N. commission investigating the Darfur crisis recommended that the ICC take up the case.

The panel compiled a list of “likely suspects” in the worst crimes, including Sudanese government officials, Janjaweed Arab militia members, rebels and “certain foreign army officers acting in their personal capacity.” The names were not made public.

U.N. emergency-relief coordinator Jan Egeland told reporters and editors at The Washington Times yesterday that it was still “very difficult” to deliver aid to displaced civilians in Darfur and that “we need sanctions against the government and pressure on the groups” involved.

But asked whether he thought the Security Council would approve sanctions after the report, he shook his head and said, “It’s still difficult. I fear not, probably not.”

Advocates of involving the ICC in Darfur say it would be much easier and faster for cases to be tried by an existing tribunal than to set up a new one.

But Mr. Boucher said an Africa-based court would build “on the existing infrastructure of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,” which was established after the 1994 genocide there.

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