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ICC Counsel for victims: Charges against Darfur janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb ‘a starting point’

May 26 - 2021 THE HAGUE
The legal representative of the victims, Paolina Massidda (Picture: ICC)
The legal representative of the victims, Paolina Massidda (Picture: ICC)

Former Darfur janjaweed leader, Ali Muhammad Ali Abdelrahman (also known as Ali Kushayb), appeared before Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands for the second day on Tuesday, in a hearing to confirm charges on 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The hearing is scheduled to run until Thursday.

In Tuesday’s session, the legal representative of the victims, Paolina Massidda, said that the charges brought against Ali Kushayb expose but a small portion of the crimes committed in West Darfur.

She said that for the victims, the confirmation of charges is considered a starting point, and that they hope that a trial will be followed by more investigations in Darfur. Massidda highlighted that rape was a war strategy adopted by the janjaweed. The main aim was to destabilise societies, Massidda explained to the court. The attacks launched by janjaweed militiamen against millions of civilians led to their displacement and to a long and difficult march to camps where they have since suffered from hunger, thirst, and lack of medical care.

Massidda concluded that today, most of them still live in extreme poverty and that many of them who have left their homes and are still living in exile do not know if they will see their country and family again.

In an initial statement to Presiding Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua, and Judge Tomoko Akane, at the opening session on Monday, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda outlined that the charges to be confirmed against Kushayb, referred to as the ‘Colonel of Colonels’ withing the janjaweed militia, include crimes of torture, rape, and murder of civilians in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar Localities of West Darfur State, between at least August 2003 and at least April 2004”.

Kushayb has yet to enter a plea, and his defence has thus far been based largely on insisting that his name is Abd-Al-Rahman, and that he is not the person referred to as Ali Kushayb.

The hearing is scheduled to continue until Thursday.

Warrant of arrest

The ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and Kushayb in 2007. Kushayb was transferred to the ICC’s custody on June 9, 2020 after surrendering himself voluntarily in the Central African Republic. Upon his arrest, the Sudanese government announced its support for his transfer to the ICC. Kushayb is also charged with a number of crimes by the Sudanese authorities.

ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II:

Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala (Presiding judge)

Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua

Judge Tomoko Akane

Office of the Prosecutor:

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor

Julian Nicholls, Senior trial lawyer

Defence Counsel:

Cyril Laucci

Legal Representatives of Victims:

Ms Paolina Massidda

Ms Amal Clooney

Mr Nasser Mohamed Amin Abdalla

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