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THE HAGUE - The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese government minister and a Janjaweed militia leader suspected of committing war crimes in Darfur.
The warrants were a crucial step in bringing atrocities in the Sudanese province before a panel of international judges.
But Sudanese authorities have in the past refused to arrest and turn over suspects to the court and it was unclear whether either suspect would surrender.
"As the territorial state, the government of the Sudan has a legal duty to arrest Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb," prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said.
In February, after a 20-month investigation ordered by the UN security council in 2005, Moreno-Ocampo named Harun, Sudan's minister for humanitarian affairs, and Kushayb, a Janjaweed militia leader, as suspects in a total of 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including the murder, rape, torture and persecution of civilians in Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004.
"We completed an investigation under very difficult circumstances, from outside Darfur, and without exposing any of our witnesses," Moreno-Ocampo said.
"We transformed their stories into evidence, and now the judges have confirmed the strength of that evidence."
Harun is presently in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi has said the Sudanese authorities conducted their own investigation into Harun's activities and found "not a speck of evidence" against him.
Kushayb has been arrested pending an internal investigation, but several witnesses in Darfur said that he was travelling freely under police protection. - Sapa-AFP