Sudan-ICC: Surrendered Darfur rebels to appear in court

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Sudan rebel leaders wanted for war crimes in connection with the deaths of 12 African Union peacekeepers in 2007 have voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Court(ICC) in The Hague, a year after they were charged.

The rebel leaders, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, who turned themselves in to the ICC on Wednesday, June 16,
after the court issued them with summonses on 27 August, 2009 appear before the chamber on Thursday. And the ICC has considered “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the attack against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) occurred in the context of an armed conflict of non-international character between the Government of Sudan and several organised armed groups at the time of the attack.”

According to the international body “it was allegedly carried out by the troops belonging to the Sudanese Liberation Army-Unity (SLA-Unity), which had broken away from the Sudanese Liberation Movement-Army (SLA/M), under the command of Jerbo, jointly with splinter forces of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), under the command of Banda.

The ICC says the rebel leaders together with the militia they led attacked the African Peacekeepers armed with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, leaving twelve AMIS soldiers dead and eight others gravely wounded. The rebels also allegedly destroyed AMIS installations and bolted away with their property, including “refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, military boots and uniforms, 17 vehicles, fuel, ammunition and money.”

About 600 people were killed in fighting between Sudan’s army and rebels of the Justice and Equality Movement (Jem) in May. The United Nation office for Humanitarian Affairs reports that an estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and more than 2.6 million displaced since ethnic rebels took up arms in 2003.

The two have been charged with “violence to life, in the form of murder, whether committed or attempted… intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging, within the meaning of article 8(2) of the Rome Statute.

The convictions come twelve years after the Rome Statute paved the way to the creation of the ICC, the first permanent war-crimes tribunal. But Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who is also wanted for alleged war crimes in Darfur continues to deny the charges, and his government says figures of those killed in the Darfur conflict have been massively exaggerated. A government minister and pro-government militia leader have also been indicted on the same grounds.

Five African countries are now facing investigations – Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan. However, analysts say it is impossible to measure how much the threat of an ICC indictment changes the behavior of governments, rebel movements and individuals.

The UN took joint control of the peacekeeping force in Darfur with increased numbers and a stronger mandate. The rebels signed a preliminary peace deal and ceasefire in February.

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