By Aimara Pujadas / GICJ

On April 5th, 2022, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, Sudan's alleged Janjaweed militia leader, appeared in Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

Mr Abd-Al-Rahman, also known by the nom de guerre Ali Kushayb, is facing 31 charges before the ICC in The Hague. He is accused of leading thousands of pro-government fighters on a systematic campaign of murder, rape, torture, forcible transfer, and persecution, among others.

He is the first Sudanese tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict, which started in August 2003. The Sudanese government forces, backed by militia groups known as the Janjaweed, were confronted with mainly non-Arab Darfur rebel movements that took up arms, in the attempt to fight discrimination and neglect on the part of the central government. 

In the heights of the conflict, hundreds of thousands were killed, and several million people were displaced by the brutal fighting. The civilian population was directly and intentionally attacked by the government’s and Janjaweed´s forces for a period of over a year, resulting in acts of ethnic cleansing, burning and pillaging of villages and properties. According to the United Nations, 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict. 

In 2005, the United Nations Security Council determined that "the situation in Sudan continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security", and  referred this situation to the ICC in Resolution 1593 (2005), taking note of the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur.

The UN Secretary-General had established the Commission "to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Darfur by all parties, to determine also whether or not acts of genocide have occurred, and to identify the perpetrators of such violations with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable." 

Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to the ICC's custody on June 9th  2020, after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. His initial appearance before the ICC took place on June 15th 2020, after the prosecutors had confirmed to judges, earlier in May, that Abd-Al-Rahman, an ally of the deposed Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, was a "vigorous perpetrator" of killings in the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region in 2003-2004. On 9 July 2021, Pre-Trial Chamber II unanimously, issued a decision confirming all the charges brought by the Prosecutor against Mr Abd-Al-Rahman and committed him to trial before a trial chamber.

The trial started with the reading of the charges against Mr Abd-Al-Rahman. The ICC Chamber was pleased that the accused understood the nature of the charges, even though he pleaded not-guilty to all the charges. He is alleged to have implemented a counter-insurgency strategy directed by Khartoum, which “also resulted in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur”. 

Considering the nature of the charges as well as the amount of evidence that will have to be presented to the judges for them to decide whether or not there is reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused, the trial may take several months before a verdict is reached.

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) hopes that the trial against Abd-al-Rahman will shed light on his responsibility for the heinous crimes he committed together with the government-backed Janjaweed militias under his command during the conflict, resulting in horrendous human rights violations. 

GICJ strongly condemns the lack of justice for crimes and atrocities committed in the context of conflicts, which are the root of the instability that many countries suffer today. Examples include Iraq, Palestine, Myanmar and so many others whose people immensely suffered from such atrocities. The cycle of impunity for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law must be broken as it may fuel further abuses. GICJ upholds that criminals must be brought to justice and guarantees of non-repetition must prevail. 

SudanCrimes, EndImpunity, human rights, gicj, genocide, ICC, crimes, justice, accountability, International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, torture prohibition, end torture, Geneva International Centre for Justice GICJ Geneva4Justice

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