Sudan: Darfur Janjaweed 'Colonel of Colonels' Ali Kushayb Faces 31 Charges At ICC

International Criminal Court, The Hague

The Hague — Former Darfur janjaweed leader, Ali Muhammad Ali Abdelrahman (also known as Ali Kushayb), appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands today, in a hearing to confirm charges of 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The hearing is scheduled to run until Thursday.

In an initial statement to Presiding Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Tomoko Akane, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda outlined that the charges to be confirmed "include crimes of torture, rape, and murder of civilians in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar Localities of West Darfur State, between at least August 2003 and at least April 2004".

Kushayb has yet to enter a plea, and his defence has thus far been based largely on insisting that his name is Abd-Al-Rahman, and that he is not the person referred to as Ali Kushayb.

Dressed in a grey suit and flanked by two (socially distanced) security officers, Kushayb (referred to officially for court purposes as Abd-Al-Rahman) listened calmly as Bensouda related how "during this period, Abd-Al-Rahman and his janjaweed militia forces, acting with military and police forces of the then government of Sudan, attacked predominantly Fur towns and villages. In the course of these attacks, in locations such as Kodoom (Kutum) and Bindisi, between about 15 and about 16 August 2003, civilians were attacked, raped, and murdered. Their homes and villages were destroyed. Thousands were forcibly displaced. Many fled to larger towns, desperately seeking sanctuary."

Bensouda further explained that in these larger towns, rather than finding protection, civilians were rounded up, arrested, and detained in various locations. "In these circumstances, in Mukjar in late February/early March 2004 and then shortly after in Deleig, men were loaded onto vehicles, taken a short distance away, and executed in cold blood. Mr Abd-Al-Rahman was present at and directly participated in these callous crimes."

She said that the evidence shows that Abd-Al-Rahman, referred to at the time as the 'Colonel of Colonels' within the janjaweed, was a knowing, willing, and energetic perpetrator of these crimes. "He played a crucial role, leading attacks, committing murders, and ordering other murders."

'I stand here today in solidarity with the victims' - ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (Picture: ICC-CPI).

She underlined that "the region of Darfur is still grappling with the devastation brought about by these events. Entire villages were destroyed. Many inhabitants of these targeted villages remain in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees to this day, 14 years since the first arrest warrant was issued in the Darfur situation. I stand here today in solidarity with the victims."

On a valedictory personal note prior to her leaving the ICC next month, Bensouda said that today's hearing has been a culmination of the efforts of the Darfur prosecution team over several years "when most had abandoned hope of progress in the situation and have looked at every opportunity to progress the case."

She called the hearing on the confirmation of charges an important and concrete step in the process of seeking to achieve justice for the victims, through fair and transparent proceedings.

'In this case today, we seek justice for the victims of rape, murder, torture and other crimes committed in Darfur' - ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

"In this case today, we seek justice for the victims of rape, murder, torture and other crimes committed in Darfur. Our evidence, we submit, will bear out the facts, the criminality and ultimately culpability in this case. My team and I are ready to present the Prosecution's case for the purposes of these confirmation of charges hearings."

The hearing is scheduled to continue unto Thursday.

Today was effectively Bensouda's last day in court before her nine-year term expires on June 16. She will be replaced by British lawyer Karim Ahmed Khan. Khan was elected as the new Chief Prosecutor of the ICC in February and is set to succeed Bensouda for the next nine-year term.

Warrant of arrest

The ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and Kushayb in 2007. Kushayb was transferred to the ICC's custody on June 9, 2020 after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. Upon his arrest, the Sudanese government announced its support for his transfer to the ICC. Kushayb is also charged with a number of crimes by the Sudanese authorities.

Read Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's full statement here

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II:

Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (Presiding judge)

Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua

Judge Tomoko Akane

Office of the Prosecutor:

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor

Julian Nicholls, Senior trial lawyer

Defence Counsel:

Cyril Laucci

Legal Representatives of Victims:

Ms Paolina Massidda

Ms Amal Clooney

Mr Nasser Mohamed Amin Abdalla

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