Sudan war crimes suspect to head disputed province

8 May, 2009 (AFP)

Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir has named Ahmed Harun, who is wanted for war crimes in Darfur, as governor of disputed south Kordofan province, transferring him from his post as a state minister.

Beshir, who himself is wanted for war crimes in Darfur, issued a decree late Thursday appointing Harun to take charge of south Kordofan, the oil-rich region which lies on the disputed north-south border.

Harun had remained as minister of state for humanitarian affairs despite an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court in 2007, accusing him and militia leader Ali Kosheib of war crimes in Darfur.

The ICC issued the warrant for Harun on 51 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan's western Darfur region in 2003 and 2004.

Among the charges, which Harun denies, were the alleged murder and rape of civilians in Darfur while he served as minister of state for the interior.

Beshir has repeatedly refused to handover Harun and Kosheib, saying the ICC had no jurisdiction over his country.

The president's decision to appoint Harun as governor of the sensitive region could be seen as a further act of defiance against the ICC, which in March issued an arrest warrant for Beshir himself on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Beshir then expelled 13 international aid agencies from Darfur accusing them of assisting the ICC but Sudan said on Thursday it will invite new foreign aid agencies to operate in Darfur and will allow those on the ground to expand their activities.

The region Harun is to head, south Kordofan, lies in the heart of the country and on the border with Darfur, scene of a war between the government and rebels since 2003 that the United Nations estimates has left 300,000 people dead and 2.7 million homeless. Sudan says 10,000 people died in the war.

South Kordofan also includes the contested border town of Abyei, the political and administrative status of which remains one of the most contentious outstanding issues in the implementation of a north-south peace deal in Sudan.

In January 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between Khartoum and the Sudan's People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLAM/A) to end a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan that killed some 1.5 million people, but remains fragile as key elements have not yet entered into effect.

In 2011, Abyei is scheduled to hold a referendum on whether to retain its special administrative status in the north or join the south, which could decide in a separate referendum to secede from the north.


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