Intl. Criminal Court all set for first major hearings on Darfur crimes


The International Criminal Court (ICC) on May 24 will start the hearings in the case of Ali Kosheib, the nom de guerre of Ali Mohammed Ali, for grave crimes committed in Darfur, Sudan.

Kosheib was a leader of the “Janjaweed” militia who also held command positions in Sudan’s auxiliary Popular Defence Forces and Central Reserve Police.

He is charged him with 50 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his alleged responsibility for rapes, destruction of property, inhumane acts, and attacks and killing of civilians in four villages in West Darfur in 2003 and 2004.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday (May 21) said the first major hearings of Kosheib’s case before the ICC is a key step towards achieving justice for the victims.

But the absence of four other top suspects, including former president Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, highlights the need for Sudanese authorities to transfer them to the ICC without further delay, HRW said.

“Progress in Kosheib’s case is important to justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families who were terrorized by the Janjaweed militia,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

“But 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.”

Kosheib voluntarily surrendered in the Central African Republic, and on June 9, 2020, the ICC announced he was in court custody. The ICC then made public a second arrest warrant that was issued in 2018, which adds three additional charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder and inhumane acts committed in the village of Deleig and surrounding areas of Darfur in March 2004.

At the hearings beginning on May 24, known as the “confirmation of charges” proceedings, ICC judges will assess if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

The remaining ICC suspects face charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in Darfur. In addition to al-Bashir, they are Ahmed Haroun, Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein, and Abdallah Banda Abakaer. All except for Banda are in Sudanese custody.

Sudan’s transitional government, which took office in 2019, has promised to cooperate with the ICC, which is a marked contrast to the previous government’s blocking of the ICC’s efforts.

The transitional government welcomed the ICC prosecutor to Sudan for the first time in October and signed a cooperation agreement with the ICC on the Kosheib case.

But the transitional government should increase its cooperation in accordance with international law, Human Rights Watch said.

Sudan has an express legal obligation to transfer the four suspects to the ICC.

The United Nations Security Council Chapter VII resolution that referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in 2005 specifically requires Sudan to cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and surrender of suspects.

“Sudan should not hold onto ICC fugitives in defiance of its international obligations because of the transitional government’s aspiration to one day try these suspects on ICC crimes,” Keppler said. “That approach serves neither the victims nor the government.” (Source: HRW)