By Millicent Zighe
The Government of Sudan recently agreed to hand over all suspects wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
The list includes Omar- Al Bashir, the ousted leader who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decade. Some of his close aides wanted by the Hague based court for their connection to the Darfur war include Ahmad Harun, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al Rahman, Abdallah Banda and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein. The suspects range from Sudanese Government officials, Militia/Janjaweed commanders, and leaders of the Resistance Front.
ICC first issued an arrest warrant against Ahmad Harun in 2007. Harun, a trained lawyer who served as Minister of State for the Interior of the Government of Sudan from 2003 to 2005- was responsible for establishing the Darfur Security Desk which coordinated different Government bodies involved in the Darfur conflict. According to the ICC, he is alleged to have taken part in recruiting, arming and funding the dreaded Janjaweed- the Arab militia group responsible for murder, looting, raping and vandalizing property. In one of his speeches Harun is quoted saying he had “all the power and authority to kill or forgive whoever in Darfur, for the sake of peace and security.” A statement he has denied making.
He is facing 42 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including murder, persecution, imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty and torture. Harun refuted all the charges insisting that rebel groups were responsible for the war in Darfur. “They started putting pressure on civilians to move out of villages, they killed their children, women they abducted, they destroyed the infrastructure and means of people’s livelihood, and caused the mass migration of people into refugee camps” the charges state. Like Bashir, Harun has on numerous occasions blasted the ICC for failing to charge the former United States President George W. Bush for war crimes committed in Iraq.
An arrest warrant against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al Rahman alias Ali Kushayb was also issued in 2007. The former Janjaweed commander is considered one of the most respected militia leaders in the whole of Wadi Salih area to the west of Darfur. Evidence gathered by the prosecutor’s office reveals Ali Kushayb gave orders to the Janjaweed to carry out atrocities including deportation and forcible transfer of population, torture, pillaging and destroying or seizing public property. Sadly, authorities have refused to hand over Ali Kushayb claiming Sudanese courts are fit to try the leader for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In an attempted move to improve its tainted image internationally, in 2009, the Government arrested Kushayb in Nyala, Southern Darfur. He was later transferred to Khartoum to face prosecution however, to date, it is unclear whether he is still in custody.
Abdallah Banda, commander of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group, is another Sudanese wanted by the ICC. He is alleged to have launched an attack against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) at the Haskanita Group Site killing 12 peacekeepers and wounding at least eight. He stands accused of three charges of war crimes including violence to life in the form of murder, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission; and pillaging. In June 2009, Banda voluntarily appeared at the ICC for his initial hearing, notifying judges he would waive his rights to be present during confirmation of charges. On September 2014, the prosecutor accused Sudan of failing to cooperate with ICC by ensuring his presence during trial opening.
Former Minister of Interior and President’s special representative in Darfur Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein is wanted by the court for war crimes and crimes against humanity including, murder, forcible transfer, rape and torture. The atrocities were allegedly conducted during a counter insurgency plan of the Government and the Janjaweed militia in the towns of Kodom, Bindisi, Mukjar and Arawala in Darfur. Locals belonging to the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups were the main target of the operation. Additionally he also played a key role in recruiting, arming and funding the police and Janjaweed militia. Hussein remains at large.
The ICC first opened investigations into Darfur in 2005 after a referral by the United Nations Security Council. An estimated 300,000 were killed in the conflicts and another 3,000, 000 displaced, figures Sudanese Government claim are grossly exaggerated.