Recent local media reports indicate that the current governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, may head Sudan's delegation to the upcoming negotiations with rebels from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N). News of a governor of an important province heading a delegation would not normally be a headline, however, the governor is an alleged war criminal in this case.
Ahmed Haroun, also known as "The Butcher of Nuba", is subject to an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for serious charges, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has served in senior official capacities in the Sudan for more than a decade.
Haroun, a lawyer by training, joined politics at a young age. He was the youngest Minister of State in the government. From 2003-2005, he was a state minister for the Interior and allegedly in charge of the management of the "Darfur Security Desk", thereby coordinating the different government bodies involved in the counter-insurgency. It is highly likely that he must have been aware of the situation in Darfur during that difficult period. Later on, he was appointed Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, following his stint at the Ministry of the Interior.
Currently, he is the governor of South Kordofan, the province that lies to the west of Darfur and to the north of South Sudan, encompassing key border regions like Abyei whose status remains unresolved. Over these same regions, Haroun has allegedly recruited tribal militias to try ensure -through violent means- that Abyei and its oil-rich fields remain part of the Sudan and do not effectively exercise a referendum under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which could result in it joining South Sudan. Alleged human rights violations occur in South Kordofan on a daily basis with total impunity for the perpetrators. Victims in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan remember Haroun all too well from the 1990s, when he was more commonly known as the "Butcher of the Nuba."
In 2007, the ICC judges issued an arrest warrant for Haroun for 42 counts for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since that period, he openly defied the ICC and its former Chief Prosecutor Moreno Ocampo, firing off false accusations at both the institution and the former Prosecutor.
Despite the charges leveled against him, he has not -- until this moment -- set foot outside of the Sudan, allegedly fearing he could be apprehended. If he travels to Ethiopia to participate in talks at the AU summit, it would be his first known trip outside the country since the issuance of an arrest warrant against him.
Although Ethiopia is not a state party to the Rome Statute, it is a member state to the United Nations. Therefore, it has the obligation to comply with Resolution 1593/2005 since this was a Chapter VII resolution, which is considered legally binding upon all member states. This resolution "advised all states and concerned regional & international organizations to cooperate fully with the court and prosecutor. "
As noted in her latest presentation at the UN Security Council, the ICC Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda recalled that the Council referred the situation to the Court because of the firm belief "that the justice process is an essential component of any strategy aiming at truly stopping ongoing crimes and achieving peace in Darfur."
This statement could not be more timely: How many more have to be killed in order to have Ethiopia and other members states of the UN comply with the UNSC 1593? Cooperation is needed at all fronts, first and foremost at the UN, especially when we are talking about massive human rights violations that affected the lives of more than 2.5 million people.
The UN needs to take tougher action on member states that deliberately disrespect their obligations. This will hopefully deter other suspects from Darfur, Sudan from visiting other member states of the UN.
Article co-authored with Stephen A. Lamony, Senior Advisor of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).