CAIRO, Egypt – Sudan will conduct its own trials for suspects implicated in crimes in the war torn Darfur region, the country's Justice Minister said Monday, without specifying when they might take place.
Rights groups say Sudan's legal system is not equipped to handle genocide and war crime trials, while rebels say any Sudanese-held trial would be a sham and no substitute for international justice.
Sabdarat denied the announcement had anything to do with a pending International Criminal Court decision on whether to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges over the situation in Darfur.
"The trials are not like making omelets," Sabdarat said when asked if the trials will be held before an expected international court decision at the end of the year. "We will try everyone for whom there is a legal base to bring them to trial."
The international court has already issued arrest warrants for a Sudanese minister and a militia leader for war crimes, but Sudan has refused to deal with the court and said it will not hand over any suspects.
Ahmed Haroun, the current minister of humanitarian affairs, and Ali Kushayeb, a janjaweed militia leader, are facing 51 charges of rape, murder and forced expulsion of civilians in Darfur.
On Sunday, Sabdarat told The Associated Press that Kushayeb is in custody and will be held accountable for unspecified crimes. Haroun, however, has no official complaints lodged against him and will not stand trial, the justice minister said.
Ahmed Hussein, spokesman for rebel Justice and Equality Movement, denounced the Sudanese trials, as "propaganda" tools for al-Bashir's government, noting that the head of the judiciary is a member of the president's party.
"All they are doing now is a reaction to counter the measures and the (campaign) of the ICC," he said. "Are they going to try to al-Bashir? He is the one that ordered the crimes in Darfur. Or are they going after small fish?"