Janjaweed militiamen often visited Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman’s pharmacy store in Garsila to collect their pay, a witness told the International Criminal Court judges hearing the case of the former commander of the fighters in The Hague.
The fifth witness, P-0736, told Trial Chamber I that about 30 fighters usually arrived at the end of the month during the market day on Thursday and Friday.
He was testifying during the trial of the former Janjaweed commander, which resumed on April 25, 2022 after taking a break for the Easter holiday.
The witness described an attack on his village in 2003 which prompted his family’s flight into the mountains after Sudan government forces and Janjaweed militiamen struck Ordo and surrounding villages, including Arawala, Fere, and Taringa around October-November 2003.
He told Judge Joanna Korner (presiding), Judge Reine Alapini-Gansou, and Judge Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor that they never went back because “there was nothing left”.
The family members briefly moved to Deleig, but two weeks before the Janjaweed laid siege on the village in early 2004, they moved to a camp housing internally displaced persons outside Garsila, where they lived until April 2005.
“We were on the streets and had nothing to cover ourselves,” he said, adding that they had to rely on relief supplies.
He told the court that he saw Ali Kushayb in Deleig. He recognised him because he used to see him outside his pharmacy in Garsila as the witness walked to the mosque.
He described one occasion when he said he saw Ali Kushayb arrive in a vehicle filled with militiamen. The vehicles later drove away with some people who had been arrested.
The fourth witness, P-0651, spoke to Trial Chamber I about the background of the armed conflict in Darfur, attacks on Fere, Taringa, and Deleig between September 2003 and March 2004, and the subsequent displacement of civilians.
“They said that people were riding horses, camels, and vehicles as well. They pillaged all people’s belongings and burnt down what was remaining,” he quoted his relatives in Taringa describing the attack by the Janjaweed.
He claimed that Abd-Al-Rahman was present during the attacks on Fere, Deleig, Taringa, and Burbur, during which Sudan government forces and Janjaweed committed crimes.
P-0651 told the judges that he was14-15 years old at the time, adding that he was psychologically affected and could not complete his degree studies later in his life because his family was destroyed.
He said he witnessed an attack and saw people’s belongings being stolen. He said when Deleig was seized, people were taken to a police station. He added that he heard that several women, including one of his relatives, were raped.
On April 14, 2022, Judge Korner adjourned the proceedings in the trial, the first for atrocities committed in Darfur, Sudan, almost 20 years ago, after the conclusion of the testimony of the third prosecution witness, P-0903. The trial started on April 5, 2022.
Before the break, Cyril Laucci, the lead defence counsel, had dismissed the testimony of the witness on Abd-Al-Rahman’s identity and background as “hearsay” after cross-examining him.
“I submit to you that what you have presented to this court is nothing more than the common story in speculation about the events given in 2003 and 2004 that you collected in your discussions with various persons,” Laucci said.
“No problem,” said the witness.
Witness P-0903 spoke about the link between Abd-Al-Rahman and his nickname, Ali Kushayb, and his alleged position of authority as a leader of the Janjaweed militia in Wadi Salih.
He told the judges that he had first encountered Abd-Al-Rahman at Garsila market in 2001 when a man pointed him out and said he was the well-known businessman who owned a pharmacy. At the time, he was not known to be working with the Janjaweed. The witness said he had heard that Ali Kushayb had a mark on his ear, “a hole or a cut”, and that he was also called Abd-Al-Rahman.
In 2003, when the attacks in Darfur started, P-0903 said he heard that Ali Kushayb was the coordinator of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) in Garsila.
He claimed that Ahmad Muhammad Harun, the then Sudanese Minister of State for Interior, was responsible for the crimes that occurred in Darfur, explaining that the attacks started soon after he gave a speech at Mukjar.
The witness told the court about two attacks on his village, Tindi, by the Janjaweed militia, whom he described as being from “the Arab tribe”. He said he recognised Ali Kushayb, who arrived in a vehicle with the militias during the first attack in August 2003. The leader was holding a black stick which, he explained, is considered to be a piece of military equipment and is carried by the leader of a squad.
P-0903 was among the villagers who escaped into a nearby mountain during the first attack in which the village was burnt down.
“We spent a month-and-a-half in the mountain and very few people survived,” he explained.
In the mountain, he met people from Kodoom and Bindisi, whose villages had been raided earlier.
Tindi suffered a second attack in March 2004, prompting the survivors who had returned to flee back to the mountain. However, they could not stay for long because the Janjaweed started searching for them, prompting them to move to Sindu village.
However, the Janjaweed invaded Sindu after two days and the witness and his family fled to Mukjar, where he was arrested and detained. He said he saw Ali Kushayb outside the detention camp giving orders while waving his hand. He said he saw a truck collect prisoners from the detention camp in two batches of 97 and 37 people. They were allegedly being transferred to Garsila, but after his release, he heard from one of the survivors that the prisoners were executed.
He said he was tortured in detention – he was hit on the back with a hot plastic pipe.
P-0029 testified that the militia, commanded by Ali Kushayb, arrived in his village of Kodoom in three vehicles. He said he saw Ali Kushayb in a vehicle parked in a valley. He recognised him because when he was 20 or 21 years old, he had visited his drug store at Garsila market several times to buy medicine for his donkey and other supplies. The shop specialised in veterinary prescriptions.
“The first time I went to buy medicine, someone whose name I cannot remember told me that if I want to buy medicine, there is someone here called Ali Kushayb. He has a pharmacy and you can buy medicines there,” the witness said.
He said when Ali Kushayb served him, he noticed that he had a hole in one ear and bent fingers.
Describing the attack on Kodoom, the witness said the Janjaweed would surround houses and set them on fire, then shoot at the villagers as they fled. He said he was certain that Abd-Al-Rahman, whom he insisted was also Ali Kushayb, led the August 2003 attacks on Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, and the surrounding areas.
He also talked about the alleged detention and execution of displaced persons in Mukjar in February/March 2004 by Sudan government forces and the Janjaweed.
He told the court he no longer lives in Kodoom since the whole area was burnt down in August 2003.
Witness P-0029 said the attacks were reported to the security ministry, but Harun, who was in charge, was reported to have said: “Your children have taken money from the government and now you are a bounty to the Janjaweed.”
The statement seemed to have incited the Janjaweed to pillage Mukjar, stealing camels and horses, and other valuables.
He said he saw Abd-Al-Rahman three times in Mukjar when he was the leader of the Janjaweed and recognised him as Ali Kushayb.
He told the court that Sudan Liberation Movement rebels attacked the Bindisi police station and Mukjar, and that he witnessed the looting and pillaging in Bindisi, and distribution of firearms and ammunition.
Alexander William Lowndes De Waal, P-1042, was the first witness, an expert jointly called by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) and the defence. His expert report, The Conflict in Darfur, Sudan, was commissioned by both the prosecution and the defence.
He gave an overview of the events which took place before and during the armed conflict in Darfur from 2003 to 2004.
“I began studying Darfur in 1984. I first travelled to Darfur in 1985, and, in 1986, I lived for some weeks in a small village close to Deleig where the events that you have been describing over the last day-and-a-half unfolded,” said P-1042.
He told the court that the conflict caused the destruction of infrastructure, loss of livelihood, and forced displacement.
He first heard the term “Janjaweed” in the late 1980s. At the time, it was the overall term for the Arab militia that had fought in the Chadian civil war between 1987 and 1989. Thereafter, the government of Sudan and the Arabs in Darfur refused to use the term, saying the Janjaweed were common criminals. He said the term is said to have been derive from the two words “jinn”, meaning spirit or devil, and “jawad”, referring to a horse, so devils on horseback.
He further stated that the mobilisation and organisation of the militia were done in an ad hoc and fluid way. In addition, the particular lines of authority depended on what was happening at a particular time in a particular place, and who was able to provide what was needed for the conduct of operations, be it fuel, vehicles, ammunition, or armed men.
The militia activities were not on the payroll and the equipment mobilised for their operations were either stolen or obtained from local merchants or local government officials on terms that were not entirely clear.
Moreover, the Sudanese government would provide ammunition, weapons, transport, and communication equipment to complement the militia’s ad hoc mobilisation.
He told the court that the government adopted the same approach to fighting insurgency that it had done in response to recurrent rebellions insurgencies over the previous 20 years.
According to the report, since the early 1980s, there were widespread and intense episodes of forced displacement, pillaging, destruction of livelihoods, rape and other forms of sexual violence, starvation, and widespread and indiscriminate killing of civilians as a counterinsurgency measure.
According to the data used in the report, during the period 2003-2004, a minimum of 30,000 people were killed through violence and about 130,000 excess mortalities above what would normally be expected for hunger and disease.
He said a minority of survivors of sexual violence come forward to report their experience. “I think that is likely to be even more the case in a very conservative society where the deep sense of shame and stigma felt by a woman or a girl who has survived this experience is such that she really wants only to hide. It is complicated additionally by the fact that the Sudanese authorities were particularly sensitive to the charge that their forces had inflicted these crimes, and they made it particularly difficult for medical staff, including staff of Sudanese and international voluntary organisations, to investigate and report on these crimes.”
Abd-Al-Rahman has denied 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes alleged to have been committed in Darfur, Sudan, between August 2003 and at least April 2004.
The charges include intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as a war crime; murder as a crime against humanity and as a war crime; pillaging as a war crime; destruction of the property of an adversary as a war crime; other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity; outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime; rape as a crime against humanity and a war crime; forcible transfer as a crime against humanity; persecution as a crime against humanity; torture as a crime against humanity and a war crime; cruel treatment as a war crime; and attempted murder as a crime against humanity and a war crime.
On April 27, 2007, the ICC issued the first warrant of arrest against Abd-Al-Rahman. The second one was issued on January 16, 2018. He voluntarily surrendered in the Central African Republic and was transferred to ICC custody on June 9, 2020. He made his first appearance in court on June 15, 2020. Pre-Trial Chamber II confirmed the charges against Abdi-Al-Rahman on July 19, 2021.