Darfur rebel leader appears before The Hague

Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, leader of Darfur’s United Resistance Front, appeared before the International Criminal Court at The Hague May 18 to face war crimes charges over an attack that killed 12 African Union (AU) peacekeepers in September 2007. He is the first suspect to appear before the ICC regarding the Darfur conflict. Abu Garda, 46, turned himself in voluntarily a day earlier to face the charges.

Sudanese government officials, including President Omar al-Bashir, have been charged with war crimes by the ICC, but refuse to acknowledge its jurisdiction. ICC Judge Cuno Tarfusser thanked Abu Garda for surrendering. “The court appreciates very much your volunteer appearance,” Tarfusser told Abu Garda at the start of proceedings. “You have sent out a very good message.”

In November 2008, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court’s chief prosecutor, requested arrest warrants for three Darfur rebel leaders, including Abu Garda, over the attack at the Haskanita AU camp, which he described as “the most serious attack against peacekeepers in Darfur.” Last November Abu Garda said he was prepared to go to The Hague, saying: “I will go, no problem. I know I was not involved.” He arrived in the Netherlands May 17 from Egypt. (AlJazeera, May 18)

Meanwhile, Sudan’s top official in North Darfur accused Chad of sending troops into his territory to fight alongside rebels. Governor Osman Kebir said Chadian forces had reinforced fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in an attack on the strategic town of Kornoi May 16. Sudan also accused Chad of carrying out three air strikes on its territory last week, calling the raids an “act of war.” (Reuters, May 18)

See our last posts on Sudan and Darfur.

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