By Janet Sankale
Former Janjaweed commander Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman has been committed to stand trial for 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
Pre-Trial Chamber II’s Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (presiding judge), Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Tomoko Akane concluded that there were substantial grounds to believe that Abd-Al-Rahman (commonly referred to as Ali Kushayb) committed the alleged crimes in Darfur, Sudan, between August 2003 and April 2004.
The ICC judges’ decision published on Friday July 9, 2021 stated that the former militia commander was responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Kodoom, Bindisi, Mukjar, Deleig, and surrounding areas.
The charges include intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations, murder, pillaging, destruction of the property of an adversary, inhumane acts, outrages upon personal dignity, rape, forcible transfer, persecution, torture, cruel treatment, and attempted murder.
At the confirmation of charges hearing held before Pre-Trial Chamber II from May 24 to 26, 2021. Fatou Bensouda, the then Prosecutor of the ICC, said the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) would prove that the former Janjaweed senior commander had committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The violence in Darfur began in 2003, when rebels protested against what they perceived as the Sudanese government’s disregard for the western region and its non-Arab population. In response, the government, under the presidency of Omar al-Bashir, equipped and supported Arab militias – which came to be known as Janjaweed – to fight the insurrection in Darfur. The militias also terrorised civilians and prevented international aid organisations from delivering much-needed food and medical supplies to the region.
The ICC accused Bashir of orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur and issued warrants for his arrest on March 4, 2009 and July 12, 2010. Bashir was removed from office in 2019 and has been in the custody of the Sudanese government pending his transfer to the ICC, where his case remains at the pre-trial stage.
Abd-Al-Rahman voluntarily surrendered himself in the Central African Republic and was transferred to ICC custody on June 9, 2020. His initial appearance before the ICC took place on June 15, 2020, to verify his identity and ensure that he was informed of the charges against him and his rights under the Rome Statute. He has since been held at the ICC Detention Centre and has two times been denied provisional release while awaiting trial.
In the trial stage, the Prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. The judges will consider all the evidence and issue a verdict.
Cyril Laucci, Abd-Al-Rahman’s legal representative, has insisted that his client is not the same person referred to as “Ali Kushayb”.
This is the first case on Darfur heading to trial, whose start date has yet to be set.
The decision on the confirmation of charges can only be appealed with the authorisation of the Pre-Trial Chamber II.
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