ICC Denies Release of Darfur War Crimes Suspect

Sudan is not a party to the 2002 Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court, but the case was referred to the court by the U.N. Security Council in 2005 for investigation.

Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman aka Ali Kushayb is seen during a confirmation of charges hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on May 24, 2021. (Credit: ICC-CPI via Courthouse News)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Appeals judges at the International Criminal Court have rejected for a second time a request to release a former Sudanese Janjaweed militia leader charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict. 

Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, had requested provisional release while awaiting trial for 50 charges of murder, rape, and torture before the global court for his role in the ongoing conflict in the North African country of Sudan. 

“The appeals chamber rejects the appeal and confirms the impugned decision,” Judge Piotr Hofmański told a mostly empty courtroom in The Hague.

Abd-Al-Rahman attended the hearing virtually from the ICC detention facility in the nearby beach resort of Scheveningen. 

He has been in custody for nearly a year exactly, landing in the Netherlands on June 9, 2020, after surrendering himself to authorities in the Central African Republic. A previous request for release was rejected last October. 

“He has not met his burden of substantiation,” Hofmański said on behalf of the three-judge panel.

Charges against Abd-Al-Rahman have not yet been formally confirmed. Hearings were held last week to determine if the judges felt there was sufficient evidence to move forward with a trial. 

Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made her final appearance before the court during those hearings, calling Abd-Al-Rahman “the colonel of colonels” as a commander in the Popular Defence Forces, a Sudanese government-backed militia, during the conflict commonly referred to as the War in Darfur. 

Bensouda’s nine-year term comes to an end this month and she will be succeeded by British lawyer Karim Khan. She recently returned from a trip to Sudan, where locals cheered on her visit by chanting, “Welcome, welcome ICC.”  

The court has issued arrest warrants for six men involved in the ongoing Darfur conflict, including former Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who has been charged with orchestrating genocide. He remains in prison in Sudan and the country has refused to surrender him to ICC custody. Sudan’s former interior minister, Ahmad Muhammad Harun, has also been charged but remains at large. 

Charges against one man, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, were not confirmed in 2010. Charges were confirmed against two other men – Saleh Mohammed Jerbom, who was killed in the conflict in 2013, and Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, who voluntarily appeared before the ICC in 2010 but is now missing. 

Sudan is not a party to the 2002 Rome Statute that created the court, but the case was referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council in 2005 for investigation. 

Fighting erupted in the Darfur region of Sudan when ethnic Africans rebelled against then Arab-led government. Then-President al-Bashir responded by sending the Janjaweed, a group of mostly Arab nomads known for riding horses or camels, to put down the uprising. According to the United Nations, the conflict has left some 300,000 dead and displaced 2.5 million. 

The court is expected to rule on whether to confirm the charges against Abd-Al-Rahman later this year. 

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