The governor of Sudan’s South Kordofan state has expressed fury over a videotaped footage aired by the Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV showing him instructing troops not take any prisoners in the course of their fighting with rebels.
Al-Jazeera TV footage showing South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun addressing troops battling insurgents in his state
"You must hand over the place clean. Rub it, crush it and sweep it. Don’t bring them back alive. We have no space for them" the undated film showed Haroun as saying at what Al-Jazeera says was a base freshly captured by Khartoum from Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).
An army commander standing near Haroun then says: "Don’t bring them back, eat them alive" amid laughter by the group in the video.
"Don’t create an administrative burden for us [by bringing back prisoners alive]" Haroun said.
The states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile along the poorly defined borders with South Sudan are home to populations which sided with the south during the civil war but were left on the Sudan side of the border. The Sudanese army has been fighting SPLM-N in both states since last year. Both sides accuse the other of invoking the battles.
The fighting has displaced more than 410,000 people in both states, more than 100,000 of them to South Sudan, according to the United Nations.
South Kordofan in particular has witnessed fierce battles in recent weeks between Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and SPLM-N on one side and with South Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) on the other.
The Islamist oriented Alwan newspaper published in Khartoum quoted Haroun as saying that Al-Jazeera maliciously edited the video to distort what he said.
The governor said that the "Rub it, crush it and sweep it" is a slogan used by Sudan’s Central Reserve forces. He went on to say that the word "Don’t" was added to the "bring him alive" sentence in order to link events in his state to the charges leveled against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
He declared that he will begin legal proceedings against al-Jazeera TV network describing the matter "clear fabrication and fraud".
In 2007, Haroun became the first Sudanese official to be charged by the ICC in connection with war crimes allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. At the time he held the position of state minister for humanitarian affairs though the crimes he was indicted on were committed while he was the state minister for interior.
The charges against him include 51 counts of murder, mass rape and torture.
Sudan refused to hand him or any other citizen to the Hague-based court.
Rabie Abdel-Aati, the media officer at the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), said Haroun’s remarks were taken out of context and were "not interpreted correctly".
"He is not ordering the soldiers to kill civilians but to kill rebels; this is war," Abdel-Aati told al-Jazeera on Saturday.
"What was said by the Southern Kordofan governor to the soldiers is in the context of mobilization of soldiers to confront and to chase the rebels to the south where they are coming from. What do you want us to do if rebels come and invade the area and threaten civilians and disturb peace and security in the area? I think that what is said by the governor is absolutely correct to confront those," the NCP official said.
"They are coming to kill our soldiers and our soldiers have a right to kill them." he added.
The outgoing ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told al-Jazeera that killing prisoners constitutes a crime under international law.
"A commander has a responsibility to ensure that his troops are not violating the law. He cannot encourage them to commit crimes. ’Take no prisoners’ means a crime against humanity or a war crime, because if the prisoner was a combatant it is a war crime and if the prisoner was a civilian it’s a crime against humanity." Ocampo said.
"In both cases, it confirms the pattern that Mr. Haroun should be arrested and brought before the ICC to stop the crimes" the ICC prosecutor added.
Last year, the United Nations human rights office documented alleged violations during the South Kordofan war including extrajudicial killings, illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of homes and mass displacement.
The allegations, "if substantiated, could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes," the United Nations said. Most of the reported violations were blamed on Sudan’s army and its allied militias.
In Brussels, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton expressing alarm over Haroun’s remarks shown on al-Jazeera.
"I am alarmed at video footage showing Ahmed Haroun, the Governor of Southern Kordofan, urging Sudanese soldiers to take no prisoners during fighting in Southern Kordofan and a Government of Sudan spokesman defending these statements," Ashton said in a statement released today.
"A deliberate policy of taking no prisoners during armed conflict constitutes a war crime. The Geneva Conventions prohibit ordering that there shall be no survivors. The Government of Sudan must ensure that the Sudan Armed Forces abide by international humanitarian law at all times".