Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo, two rebel field commanders, face trial for a murderous attack on an African Union base in 2007, an assault that killed 12 peacekeepers. Judges of Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court on Monday decided that the two men should stand trial for the attack, facing charges of “violence to life” and “pillaging.”The judges “found substantial grounds to believe that Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo are criminally responsible” for the Haskanita attack of 29 September 2007. The assault involved approximately 1000 rebel attackers, consisting of two allied forces, one allegedly led by Banda and Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, and the other under the command of Jerbo. Abu Garda has already appeared before the ICC and judges cleared him of charges saying that there was not enough evidence to proceed in his case.
The two rebel leaders are not currently in custody of the court. Whether they will agree to stand trial is yet unclear and no arrest warrant has been issued. Last June, Banda and Jerbo appeared voluntarily in response to a court summons.
One issue that will be at stake during the trial will be the motive of their attack. Some commentators on the Haskanita case have said that the rebels believed a Sudanese government representative in Haskanita was using the peacekeepers’ base as an observation point to direct aerial bombardment. Others have suggested the rebels were drunk during the attack.
Abdallah Banda, born in 1963 in Tina, is currently a field commander of the Justice and Equality Movement faction known as ‘Collective Leadership’, which is part of the larger United Resistance Front led by Abu Garda.
Jerbo was born in 1977 in Shagag Karo area in Kutum in the north of Darfur. At the time of the alleged attack in 2005, Jerbo was the chief-of-staff of the breakaway ‘Unity’ faction of the Sudan Liberation Army.
ICC Photo: Defense lawyer Karim Khan (left), Abdallah Banda (center) and Saleh Jerbo (right).