International Criminal Court opens first trial on Darfur: historic moment for Sudanese victims and survivors

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The Hague, 4 April 2022 - On 5 April 2022, the trial against former Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman will open at the International Criminal Court (ICC). He is charged with 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, allegedly committed in Darfur between August 2003 and at least April 2004. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) and Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) welcome this historic first international trial in the situation in Darfur, which is also the first trial stemming from a situation referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council. At long last, after nearly 20 years since they faced grave atrocities, survivors will see the beginning of justice being done.

"April 5, 2022 is a momentous day for victims and survivors in Darfur who never stopped fighting to see the day the cycle of impunity is broken. We hope the trial against Abd-Al-Rahman will shed light on his responsibility for the horrendous crimes, in particular sexual crimes, committed by him and the government-backed Janjaweed militias under his command."

Mohamed Ali Mossaad, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) Executive Director

Former Janjaweed leader, Abd-Al-Rahman, was transferred by the authorities of the Central African Republic after he voluntarily surrendered to the ICC in June 2020. After a three-day confirmation of charges hearing in May 2021, ICC judges confirmed in July 2021 all war crimes and crimes against humanity charges presented against him and committed him to trial.

The ICC Darfur investigation, which was initiated in 2005 following the referral by the United Nations Security Council, produced six arrest warrants, including for three suspects from the Sudanese government, among whom former president Omar Al Bashir. The ICC did not confirm the charges against one suspect, but four suspects remain at large.

"The Sudanese government must immediately surrender the remaining suspects for their alleged responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in Darfur. The UN Security Council, who referred the situation to the ICC, must also take its responsibilities and push Sudan to ratify the Rome Statue and ensure Member States to concretely support and cooperate with the ICC."

Ahmed Elzobier, Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM) Director

The judges have authorised 142 victims to participate in this trial who will be represented in court by two Legal Representatives. The ICC’s Rome Statute gives victims a central role in the Court’s justice process by providing them broad participatory rights throughout the criminal proceedings. This recognition of victims’ rights to participation, legal representation and reparations, boosts the ICC’s credibility, and honours the centrality of victims’ experiences and their potential to contribute to the justice process.

"We ask the Court to facilitate and guarantee the meaningful participation of victims throughout the different phases of ICC proceedings. Continued outreach to affected communities is fundamental to provide for victims’ meaningful engagement with the criminal justice process, managing their expectations, including in terms of protection and reparations."

Alice Mogwe, FIDH President

Background: Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman and the conflict in Darfur

Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman ("Ali Kushayb"), was allegedly one of the most senior leaders in the tribal hierarchy in the Wadi Salih locality and member of the Popular Defence Forces (PDF) who commanded thousands of government-backed Janjaweed militias from August 2003 until around March 2004. His charges include the war crimes and crimes against humanity of:
- intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population;
- murder and attempted murder;
- outrages upon personal dignity;
- rape;
- forcible transfer;
- persecution;
- torture and cruel treatment;
- pillaging and destruction of the property of an adversary;
- and other inhumane acts.

The conflict in Darfur brought devastating crimes upon the population of the Darfur region, with UN estimates of 300,000 killed and nearly three million forcibly displaced escaping crimes committed mainly by Sudanese security forces and by the Janjaweed, a militia proxy to the former Sudanese government. The lasting impunity for these crimes fuelled the commission of further international crimes up to the present day, as documented in a joint FIDH and ACJPS report issued in November 2021.

For more background information, see the special FIDH webpage created for “Will There be Justice for Darfur? Persisting Impunity in the Face of Political Change”: https://justicefordarfur.fidh.org

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