An alleged former leader of a Janjavid militia in Sudan’s Darfur region has pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, went on trial Tuesday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he faces 31 crimes that include harassment, robbery, murder and rape.
Abd-al-Rahman reportedly commanded pro-government militia forces that attacked and burned villages in Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004, as then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir sealed a regional insurgency. Tried to put
“The trial began with the reading of the charges against Mr. Abd-al-Rahman. The Chamber was satisfied that the accused understood the nature of the charges. He pleaded not guilty to all charges,” said ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdallah told VOA on Tuesday.
Abd-al-Rahman is the first Darfur war crime to be prosecuted at the ICC. The United Nations estimates that more than 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and more than 2.5 million were displaced from their homes.
According to John Prendergast, co-founder of Sentry, an organization focused on war crimes and war-related illicit finance, the lack of justice for crimes and atrocities committed in Darfur nearly two decades ago is at the root of Sudan’s instability today. happened.
“The militia in which Kushayb was a leader committed crimes of genocide, and up to this moment there has been almost no accountability. It is no surprise that Sudan is being marked by dictatorship, kleptocracy and serious human rights abuses ,” Prendergast said in a statement.
A verdict in the trial against Abd-al-Rahman could take several months, the ICC’s Abdullah told South Sudan in Focus, noting that “taking into account the nature of the allegations and the amount of evidence that will have to be presented . To enable the judges to decide whether there is a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”
Abd-al-Rahman was first charged in 2007. He surrendered to authorities in the Central African Republic in 2020, a year after Bashir was ousted from power in Sudan. He was transferred to The Hague and charged in 2021.
Prendergast said his trial is an opportunity to create legal accountability for the commission of horrific crimes.
“This case has implications beyond an individual’s guilt. It may help lay the foundation for justice on behalf of the victims and survivors of Darfur.”
Yagoub Ahmed, an internally displaced person (IDP) and the leader of the camp at the Kalma camp in western Darfur state, told Focus to South Sudan that the ICC’s trial gives the IDP and refugees hope that Abd-al-Rahman will be arrested for his alleged crime. will be held responsible for the works. ,
“When justice is served, no one will try to take the law into their own hands. This gives us hope that justice will finally be served. We have faith in the ICC and we have been following them from day one.”
Hanan Hassan Khatir, a displaced man in the Kalma camp and whose husband was killed in Darfur in 2003, told Focus to South Sudan that he was happy to see Abd al-Rahman in the Hague courtroom.
“I can’t believe my ears that such a trial would have taken place, but today I’m excited that Ali Kushayb has finally been produced in a court of law. This man has committed a lot of mass murder, ethnic cleansing. Some of us have We have been publicly raped in front of our fathers and husbands. Our hope is that all others involved in committing crimes against our people in Darfur should be taken to the ICC,” Khathir told VOA.
Although trying Abd-al-Rahman at the ICC is a major step, all alleged criminals should be prosecuted for crimes committed against civilians, she said.
Former President Bashir was indicted by the ICC in 2009 for alleged atrocities committed by his government, but is still imprisoned in Khartoum after being found guilty of corruption charges.