The International Criminal Court's prosecutor urges protection of Darfur civilians

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo urged world leaders attending the UN General Assembly on Monday to seek measures to protect civilians in Sudan's Darfur region while the court is prosecuting those charged with crimes there, reported dpa.

Moreno-Ocampo planned to speak in debate on the ethnic war in Darfur, which has killed more than 300,000 people since 2003. In July he asked the ICC at The Hague to issue a warrant to arrest Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for the killing of Darfurians.

"We presented a solid case," he said in a news article released by the UN. "The evidence shows that crimes against Darfurians continue today."

"Mr al-Bashir has complete control of his forces, and they are raping women today, they are promoting conditions in the camps to destroy complete communities and they are still bombing schools," he said.

The 192-nation assembly was to start on Tuesday a six-day political debate on world issues, which will be attended by scores of heads of state and government, and delegations from members countries.

The assembly on Monday held wide-ranging discussions on the slow state of development in Africa, which were attended by high-ranking delegations.

Since Moreno-Ocampo requested the arrest warrant for al-Bashir, the ICC pre-trial chamber was reviewing evidence to decide whether to grant the request. The African Union and some Islamic governments accused Moreno-Ocampo of jeopardizing the peace process in Darfur by accusing al-Bashir of committing war crimes and genocide. They have asked the UN Security Council in New York to end his mandate.

"The judges will decide. Those sought by the court have to face justice," said Moreno-Ocampo, undaunted by African opposition. "Between criminals and 2.5 million victims, they should make the right decision."

"It is an immense challenge for the political leaders of the world. They have to protect the victims and ensure the respect for the court's decisions," he said.

The UN said the prosecutor has asked Khartoum for information related to the government attack in August against a refugee camp in Kalma, in Darfur, in which at least 31 civilians were killed.

The UN said Moreno-Ocampo was scheduled to meet in New York with high-level officials, including Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, who chairs the Ministerial Committee aimed at furthering peace efforts in Darfur.

Others meetings are set with African Union chair Jean Ping; British Minister of State responsible for Africa, Asia and the UN Mark Malloch Brown; French Minister of State for Human Rights Ramatoulaye Yade-Zimet and the Netherland's Foreign Minister Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen.

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