Sudan promotes Darfur atrocities suspect
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU, Associated Press Writer 2
hours, 38 minutes ago
KHARTOUM, Sudan - The suspected head of a Sudanese
militia accused of murder, rape and other atrocities
in Darfur has received a senior government post, the
Sudanese government confirmed Monday. President Omar
al-Bashir dismissed allegations against the man as
Musa Hilal, the alleged leader of the so-called
janjaweed militias, was named adviser to Sudan's
Ministry of Federal Affairs last week, Sudanese media
reported Monday. The ministry manages the central
government's relations with the outlying provinces in
Africa's largest country.
"He is an influential figure in Darfur. His leadership
has contributed to stability and security," al-Bashir
said during a visit to Turkey. "We think the
accusations against him are untrue."
Hilal is the leader of the Mahamid, a clan belonging
to the powerful Rezeigat tribe of nomad Arabs in
Darfur. He is accused of having led the proxy militia
raised by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum to
fight Darfur's ethnic African rebels.
Over 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been
chased to refugee camps since the fighting began in
2003 most of them ethnic Africans.
The U.N. Security Council imposed travel and financial
sanctions against Hilal and three others in April 2006
for his alleged role in what President Bush has called
Hilal has denied any wrongdoing, stating in a 2004
video interview with New York-based Human Rights Watch
that he always acted on orders and under control of
the Sudanese government.
Federal Affairs Minister Abdelbasit Sabderat told The
Associated Press by telephone that Hilal would be
"handling tribal affairs throughout the Sudan," adding
that Darfur would not be the adviser's only focus.
The Sudanese government denies it arms or employs the
janjaweed, stating they are uncontrolled tribal
militias prone to banditry, while the tribal fighters
incorporated into uniformed paramilitary groups, which
do much of the government's fighting in Darfur, are
regular troops and not janjaweed.
But in February 2007, the International Criminal Court
in The Hague charged Cabinet Minister Ahmed Haroun and
a suspected janjaweed leader known as Ali Kushayb with
51 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes in
Darfur, including the murder, rape, torture and
persecution of civilians.
The ICC alleges Haroun coordinated government efforts
to arm and fund the janjaweed, and that Kushayb led
militias in southern Darfur.
Sudan, which is not a party to the ICC, has refused to
hand over the suspects. Haroun remains in office as
minister of Humanitarian Affairs where he oversees
humanitarian relief for Darfur's victims and Kushayb
is in hiding under government protection.
The ICC has declined to comment on whether it intends
to charge Hilal.
"Musa Hilal is the poster child for janjaweed
atrocities in Darfur," said Richard Dicker of Human
Rights Watch. Naming him to a senior government
position is a new "slap in the face to Darfur victims
and to the UN Security Council," the group said in a
Many Darfur Arab tribes have begun to fall out with
the government or to fight among themselves for booty.
Some Sudanese observers see Hilal's appointment as a
way to prevent further bloodshed and steer the nomads
away from an open rebellion.
"This appointment comes out of political and tribal
consideration," said Tayeb Khamis, a spokesman for the
Sudan Liberation Movement, a former Darfur rebel
faction whose leader has signed a peace deal with the
government. "The government is trying to strike a
balance, and Hilal is an outstanding figure in North
Darfur, regardless of what the ICC or others have on
him," he said.
Associated Press writers Mohamed Osman in Khartoum and
Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.