from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) – A HUMAN rights group has strongly denounced the pardoning of a former Sudanese tribal leader jailed for serious crimes in the Darfur region.
The country’s Sovereign Council pardoned and released Musa Hilal after four years in detention in the capital Khartoum.
He played a prominent role leading the Janjaweed militia and served as a government advisor as were committed in the Darfur conflict between 2002 and 2005.
He defected from the former ruling party in 2014.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) research in 2005 identified Hilal as a lynchpin for the government’s militia recruitment strategy and as central to numerous attacks against civilians in North Darfur between 2003 and 2004.
He allegedly took women prisoners at a market in 2004.
Their whereabouts were still unknown a year later.
HRW noted however, Hilal’s 2017 arrest and conviction was not in connection with these crimes.
Instead, Sudan’s former government of Omar al-Bashir brought Hilal and others before a military court for allegedly attacking government forces and committing related crimes in Darfur.
“While his pardon this week is only limited to those 2017 charges, the situation begs the question as to why a militia leader subject to such serious war crimes accusations is making headlines for being pardoned as opposed to being criminally investigated for Darfur atrocities,” HRW stated.
HRW has urged the Sovereign Council administering the country to take concrete steps towards establishing and operationalising accountability mechanisms laid out in the Darfur peace agreement, including cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) and setting up a special court for Darfur.
“Without this, how can victims believe those responsible for crimes in Darfur will not go unpunished?” HRW asked.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Darfur since 2013.
– CAJ News