Some two million people have
fled their homes in Darfur, the UN says
The International Criminal Court
has announced an inquiry into alleged war crimes in west Sudan's
The Hague court's chief prosecutor,
Luis Moreno Ocampo, said on Monday it was launching what will be the
ICC's biggest investigation.
The BBC's Martin Lumb says this is the
first time the court has used its right to pursue a case where a host
state is thought unwilling or unable to do so.
A special UN inquiry has given the ICC
the names of 51 potential suspects.
The UN says about 180,000 people have
died in the two-year Darfur conflict.
It says more than two million people
have been forced to leave their homes in the region.
The announcement by Mr Ocampo comes
two months after the situation in Darfur was referred to the ICC
following a vote at the UN Security Council - the first time the
council has referred a case to the ICC.
INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
First permanent court to try
individuals for genocide, war crimes and other human rights
Rome Statute set up in July 1998,
when 120 countries adopted the treaty
Came into force in April 2002
after ratification by 60 countries
The ICC statement said the
investigation would be based on thousands of documents received by the
court and interviews with more than 50 independent experts.
"The investigation will require
sustained co-operation from national and international authorities,"
Mr Ocampo said in the statement.
"It will form part of a collective
effort, complementing African Union and other initiatives to end the
violence in Darfur and to promote justice.
"Traditional African mechanisms can be
an important tool to complement these efforts and achieve local
Our correspondent says that by
launching the investigation now the court has rejected more cautious
advice that the case should wait until the conflict is completely
Other trials will be held later this
year against alleged perpetrators of war crimes in two other African
nations, Uganda and Congo.
However, in these cases the
governments themselves turned to The Hague for justice.
The Sudanese ambassador in the UK,
Hassan Abdin, told the BBC his government would stick to a decision
taken immediately after the Security Council resolution not to hand
over its citizens for trial abroad.
But he said Khartoum was willing to
discuss with ICC prosecutors requests to try suspects inside the
US backed down
The Security Council cited allegations
of rape, murder and plunder in Darfur.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch
group said the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum have not taken any
meaningful steps to bring to account those responsible for the alleged
The referral to the court was made
possible when the US - which opposes the ICC - backed away from using
its veto power as the Council's permanent member.
The US has expressed its concerns that
the court could bring bogus charges against American nationals.
Washington has already signed nearly
100 bilateral treaties with countries that have agreed not to
surrender US citizens to the ICC.
However, 99 countries have ratified
the court's founding treaty, including all of Washington's major
allies in Europe.