The first trial of a person accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region, has got underway at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (also known as "Ali Kushayb") appeared in Trial Chamber I of the ICC on Tuesday, with Judge Joanna Korner presiding, alongside Judge Reine Alapini-Gansou and Judge Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor.
The suspected former leader of the pro-Government Janjaweed militia is accused of 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, allegedly committed in Darfur, between August 2003 “and at least April 2004”, said a press release from the ICC.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003, between Sudanese Government forces, backed by militia groups known as the Janjaweed, pitted against mainly non-Arab Darfur rebel movements, angry over discrimination and neglect on the part of central government. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and several million displaced by the brutal fighting.
The Janjaweed were widely accused of committing ethnic cleansing against the civilian population, burning and pillaging hundreds of villages.
Ousted former president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is also facing genocide and war crimes charges relating to Darfur, in the ICC, but has so far evaded arrest. He is currently in custody in Sudan, following his removal from power in 2019.
The trial started with the reading of the charges against Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, where he is alleged to have taken part in attacks on civilians in four Darfuri towns. He and militia members under his command, are alleged to have committed widespread rape, torture, killing and pillaging.
The ICC said that 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”.
Not guilty plea
“The Chamber was satisfied that the accused understood the nature of the charges. The accused plead not-guilty to all the charges”, said the ICC in its statement.
The first expert witness is scheduled to start testifying on 6 April 2022.
Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to the ICC's custody on 9 June 2020, after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. His initial appearance before the ICC took place on 15 June 2020.
The trial is taking place, amid an increase in unrest and violence in the Darfur region, following political upheaval in Khartoum, and a military coup, that has seen allegations of widespread human rights abuses.