Sudan: Kushayb's Surrender Lifts Hopes ICC Could Try Others Wanted for Darfur Crimes

On the outskirts of El Fasher in North Darfur (file photo).

The surrender of ex-warlord Ali Kushayb to the International Criminal Court has raised hope that others wanted for crimes in Sudan’s Darfur region could be turned over to the ICC, including former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Sudanese officials in February said that former officials, including Bashir, would face trial at the ICC.

Ali Kushayb is in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after surrendering to authorities in the Central African Republic on Tuesday.

Kushayb was a commander of a militia, the Popular Defense Forces -- also known as the Janjaweed -- that attacked towns and villages in Darfur as the government of then- president Omar al-Bashir tried to crush a rebellion that began in 2003.

The ex-warlord is now facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including counts of murder, torture, pillaging and rape.

Kushayb’s surrender has raised hope that others wanted for crimes in Darfur could be turned over to the International Criminal Court.

Samia al-Hashami was a defense lawyer for protesters arrested during demonstrations against former president Bashir.

She says Kushayb’s arrest puts pressure on the current Sudanese government.

Al-Hashmi says the transitional government earlier stated that it doesn't mind forming a hybrid court to sue the accused people of war crimes in Darfur.  But since the statement was issued, no serious steps or procedures were taken. The arrest of one of the accused people and the delivery of him to ICC hands in the Hague shall put an end to the lack of progress on this case.

Kushayb is one of six men wanted by the ICC for crimes in Darfur.  The list of suspects includes Bashir, who was ousted by the military last year after months of protests against his 30-year iron-fisted rule.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2008, accusing him of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. A Sudanese court sentenced him to two years in detention for corruption last December.

There are reports in the Sudanese media that Kushayb may be used as a witness against other war crimes suspects.  Political analyst Ahmed Abdelghani thinks that would cause trouble for the transitional government.

Abdelghani says if Kushayb is used as a witness for the state regarding war crimes in Darfur, it will lead to political complications, especially that some military institutions might be involved in the conflict, with Kushayb and other militias in committing war crimes and genocides in Darfur region.  That step will definitely add confusion to the Sudanese political scene.

The Darfur conflict killed more than 300,000 people and has left two million internally displaced.

In a statement, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Kushayb’s surrender is a milestone in the court's dealings with the Darfur situation.

She called on Sudanese authorities to “ensure tangible justice” for the victims in Darfur without delay, and said ending impunity for atrocities is essential to achieving durable peace and security in Darfur.

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