Darfur fugitive finally appears in court
June 17, 2020
AFTER 13 years as a fugitive, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd–Al-Rahman, commonly known as Ali Kushayb, has finally made his first appearance before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur in Sudan.
Abd–Al-Rahman voluntarily surrendered in the Central African Republic on June 9 and was handed over to the ICC.
The Court said that the CAR, Chad, France, Netherlands and UN peacekeeping forces provided cooperation and assistance in his surrender.
On Monday, June 15 Abd–Al-Rahman appeared before the Pre-Trial Chamber II’s Single Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala via video-link from the ICC Detention Centre.
The Single Judge verified the identity of the suspect, and ensured that he was clearly informed of the crimes he is alleged to have committed and of his rights under the Rome Statute of the ICC in a language he fully understood and spoke.
The opening of the confirmation of charges hearing was scheduled provisionally for December 7 this year.
The purpose of the confirmation of charges hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds that the accused committed each of the 53 counts of the crimes he is charged with.
If the charges are confirmed, totally or partly, the case will be transferred to a Trial Chamber, which will then conduct the trial.
Abd-Al-Rahman was a leader of the “Janjaweed” militia operating in Darfur who also held commanding positions in Sudan’s auxiliary Popular Defence Forces and Central Reserve Police.
In April 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Abd-Al-Rahman for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In bringing the charges, the ICC judges found “reasonable grounds to believe” that he bore responsibility for rapes, destruction of property, perpetrating inhumane acts, and attacking and killing civilians in four villages in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004.
The judges also found evidence indicating that Abd-Al-Rahman directed attacks as well as mobilised, recruited, armed, and provided supplies to Janjaweed militia under his command.
The Sudanese authorities detained Kushayb on unrelated charges in 2007 and again in 2008 but was released on both occasions.
“Ali Kushayb’s surrender is a landmark for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.
“The world watched in horror as Sudan’s government carried out brutal attacks on Darfur civilians, killing, raping, burning, and looting in villages, starting in 2003.
“But after 13 years justice finally caught up with one major suspect, Ali Kushayb.”
The ICC opened an investigation into Darfur crimes in 2005 after UN Security Council Resolution 1593 referred the matter to the Court.
Given that Sudan is not an ICC member, the referral was needed for the Court to investigate crimes committed in Darfur.
There are outstanding ICC arrest warrants for four other Sudanese suspects, including former President Omar Al-Bashir, on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
Al-Bashir was removed from power in April 2019 after months of protests in Sudan, which began in December 2018.
In trying to contain the situation, government security forces killed hundreds of protesters, according to human rights organisations.
Under Sudan’s power-sharing deal signed on August 17, the transitional government is headed by an 11-member Sovereign Council for a period of three years, followed by elections.
The new government has promised that it would cooperate with the ICC, following years of obstruction to the Court’s investigation by the Al-Bashir regime.
In welcoming the surrender of Abd-Al-Rahman, Keppler said it was “a landmark day for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families”.
She added: “Justice is not always immediately possible, making the ICC’s role as a permanent court so critical.
“ICC arrest warrants have no expiration date, but do rely on cooperation from states to be enforced.
“Now, the Central African Republic, Chad, France, Netherlands, and UN forces have helped make the hope of accountability for victims a reality.”