A UN-appointed commission accused the Sudanese government of gross, systematic human rights violations in Darfur, but stopped short of labelling the violence as genocide.

America is not happy. They are sticking to their insistence that the Sudanese government is guilty of genocide, a position first put by then secretary of State Colin Powell last September.

But the UN report says the “crucial element of genocidal intent appears to be missing,”

It recommended that the abuses be dealt with by the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague – a move opposed by Washington.

The United States has refused to recognize the ICC, fearing the court could be used to prosecute politically motivated charges against US diplomats or troops around the world.

The US State Department has said it favours other avenues for bringing suspected Darfur war criminals to justice, including the use of the International Criminal Tribunal set up in Tanzania to try Rwanda genocide suspects.

In its contentious report the five-member UN commission, stressed that the absence of a genocidal policy “should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated.”

It specifically blamed government forces and militia for indiscriminate attacks, including the killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape, pillaging and forced displacement throughout Sudan’s Darfur region.

However, it stipulated that such acts, while probably constituting “war crimes,” did not carry the specific intent to annihilate a group distinguished on racial, ethnic, national or religious grounds, and therefore stopped short of genocide.

At the same time, it recognised that in some instances individuals, including government officials, may have committed acts with genocidal intent.

“Whether this was the case in Darfur, however, is a decision only a competent court can make on a case by case basis,” it said.

The current humanitarian crisis in Darfur was born of a rebel uprising in February 2003 against government neglect of the desert region.

Khartoum responded to the rebellion with a deadly show of force by Arab militias called the Janjaweed, who are accused of having waged a scorched-earth campaign against non-Arab civilians to bring down the rebels.

Around 70,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur, many from hunger and disease, while some 1.5 million others have been displaced, many into squalid and dangerous camps.