Darfur war crimes suspect appears before International Criminal Court |
Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (also known as “Ali Kushayb”) appeared in Court Room I of the ICC on Tuesday, with Judge Joanna Korner presiding, along with Judge Reine Alapini-Gansou and Judge Judge Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor.
A suspected former leader of the pro-government Janjaweed militia is accused of 31 counts of war and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in Darfur, between August 2003 “to at least especially April 2004,” said a press release from the ICC.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003, between Sudanese Government forces, supported by militia groups known as the Janjaweed, pitted against mainly non-Arab Darfur rebel movements, i.e. anger at the discrimination and contempt of the central government. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and several million displaced because of the brutal fighting.
Janjaweed was accused by many of the ethnic cleansing of civilians, burning and looting hundreds of villages.
The ousted former Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, is also facing genocide and Darfur-related war crimes charges in the ICC, but has so far evaded arrest. He is currently detained in Sudan, after he was dismissed in 2019.
The trial began with the reading of the charges against Mr Abd-Al-Rahman, where he is alleged to have participated in attacks on civilians in four Darfuri towns. He, and the militia members under his command, are accused of committing acts of rape, torture, murder, and widespread looting.
The ICC said that he allegedly carried out a counter-insurgency strategy directed by Khartoum, which “also resulted in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur”.
Do not plead guilty
“The Chamber is pleased that the defendant understands the nature of the charges. Defendant pleaded not guilty to all charges,” the ICC said in its statement.
The first expert witness is expected to begin testifying on April 6, 2022.
Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to ICC custody on June 9, 2020, after voluntarily surrendering in the Central African Republic. His first appearance before the ICC took place on June 15, 2020.
The trial is taking place amid growing unrest and violence in the Darfur region, following political upheaval in Khartoum, and a military coup, alleging widespread human rights abuses.