The ICC Opens Ali Kushayb’s Case For Past Atrocities In Darfur

Senior Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb has been summoned by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened the hearing with presentations outlining the crimes against humanity allegedly ordered by Kushayb during the 2003-2004 crisis in Sudan.

Speaking to the court, Bensouda said, “It is my great privilege to be present here today when finally one of the suspects in the Darfur situation is before this court to face independent and impartial justice.” She further added, “Let me express my sincere respect and admiration for the courage, patience, and resilience of the Darfur victims who have waited for so long for this day to arrive.”

The perpetrator, Ali Mohammed Ali Abdul Rahman, known as Ali Kushayb or Abd-Al-Rahman, is charged with a total of 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes dating back to the deadly Darfur conflict in 2003 and 2004, including the instigation of murder, rape, torture, and persecution. Arguing through his lawyer, Cyril Laucci, he insists the charges are untrue and disputes the court’s jurisdiction in the case. Even though this hearing is not a trial, a decision is expected later this year, Africa news reports.

The Darfur conflict began when rebels in the territory’s ethnic-central and sub-Saharan African communities launched an insurgency in 2003, protesting oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum. The government of President Omar al-Bashir responded with aerial bombings and unleashed Janjaweed militias, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Estimates are that 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were displaced. Al-Bashir was charged with crimes against humanity, including genocide. Imprisoned in Khartoum since 2019, he has had several trials in Sudanese courts related to his three decades of strongman rule.

The reputable Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed Monday’s hearing as a step toward justice for victims, but Elise Keppler added that “the absence of al-Bashir and the three other Darfur suspects at the ICC is a major shortcoming that the Sudanese authorities should promptly address.” Advocating for justice, HRW further detailed the names of the suspects: Ahmed Haroun, the former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and former Governor of Southern Kordofan state, Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein, the former Defense Minister, and Abdallah Banda Abakaer, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur. The statement stressed that “all except for Banda are in Sudanese custody.”

Adam Regal, a spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugee and Displaced Camps in Darfur, said, “This is a legal process, not a political one. It is the right of the victims and displaced people to see justice achieved.” Peace in Sudan needs to exceed discourse. Now is the time for the victims of rape and torture and those who lost family members to receive some level of closure. Although the crimes cannot be undone, the perpetrators must be brought to justice. This justice includes the making of public acknowledgments regarding their crimes, as well as admitting the damages they have caused to their victims. Given how difficult it will be to gather accurate information about what happened, it suffices that the truth is admitted by those who orchestrated the crimes.

Forgiveness and reconciliation remain the final way forward for those affected. However, the ICC’s decision should be geared towards deterring others from ever considering such action in the future. Every human being has a dignity that must be respected universally and it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure this. There is a need for peace and stability to be restored in Sudan and the intervention of the ICC is a step forward in this regard.

Sarah Namondo