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Darfur rebel leader says prepared to face indictment at ICC

December 11, 2009 (PARIS) – A Darfur rebel chief who faces charges of masterminding an attack on peacekeepers said he will accept any decision made by the judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on his case.

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Bahr Idriss Abu Garda in the courtroom of International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 (Reuters)

Bahr Idriss Abu Garda the leader of the Darfur United Resistance Front (URF) appeared voluntarily twice before the Hague tribunal in May and November of this year to counter charges that he along with two unnamed rebel commanders led an attack on African Union (AU) peacekeepers in 2007 that left 12 soldiers dead and wounded eight others according to court documents.

The rebel chief is now awaiting the ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber I which is deliberating on whether he should face trial. The decision should be made no later than January.

His defense lawyer Karim Khan said the ICC prosecutor’s evidence was unreliable and incomplete, adding that Abu Garda was not in Sudan in the months prior to the attack as he was traveling abroad in Africa as part of his work for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) political wing.

Abu Garda “did not order the attack on Haskanita. He did not encourage it ... He did not participate in it,” Khan said. “Rather than condoning or encouraging it, he went on record and roundly condemned it”.

In Cairo Abu Garda told audience in a forum that he complied with the ICC summons to appear “to assert the principle of combating impunity and [having] accountability”.

“We carried arms for justice as a principle so I have to appear before court and I am willing to bear the consequences whether it is incriminating or exonerating” he said.

Abu Garda called on Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir to stand before court if he is certain of his innocence adding that this sends a strong message to dictators worldwide.

Sudan has dismissed the appearance of Abu Garda describing it as a “play” by the ICC prosecutor to pressure Bashir, also wanted by the court, into surrendering himself.

(ST)