from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) – THE trial of Ali Mohammed Ali Abd-al Rahman, a former Janjaweed commander, offers victims and communities terrorised by the militia and government forces in Darfur, hope for justice.
This marks the beginning of the first trial against any senior leader for crimes committed by the Omar al-Bashir regime and government-supported forces following the genocide and other atrocities in the volatile region.
Also known as Ali Kushayb, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has slapped him with 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the killing of civilians, rape, torture, and other cruel treatment in Darfur.
These were committed between August 2003 “and at least April 2004”, according to the ICC.
Abd-al Rahman (65) has evaded capture for 13 years after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
He has been arrested in the Central African Republic (CAR) and transferred to the ICC in 2020.
This followed efforts of the authorities of the CAR, Chad, France, and the leaders of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA).
The trial started on Tuesday this week at The Hague. The suspect pleaded not guilty.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed the commencement of the long-awaited trial.
“In the face of steep odds and no other credible options, the ICC is serving as the crucial court of last resort for Darfuris,” Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at HRW stated.
The advocate said Sudanese authorities should surrender the remaining fugitives, including former president al-Bashir, so victims have the opportunity to also see them held to account.
“For all these years, those implicated in serious crimes and other abuses in Darfur and Sudan have largely suffered no consequences – and in some instances, have even been rewarded,” Keppler said.
Al-Bashir was ousted in a coup in 2019.
He was president in 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups began fighting against the government of Sudan, which they accused of oppressing Darfur’s non-Arab population.
The government responded to attacks by carrying out an alleged campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs, with an estimated 300 000 civilians killed.
The Janjaweed comprise Sudanese Arab tribes, the core of whom are from camel herder background with significant recruitment from the cattle herder people
The United States welcomed the opening of trial proceedings against Ali Abd-al Rahman.
“This trial is a signal to those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in Darfur that impunity will not last in the face of the determination for justice to prevail,” Ned Price, Department of State spokesperson, said.
The trial at The Hague takes place amid increasing instability Darfur, political crises in Khartoum and a military coup.
– CAJ News