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Sudan detains militia leader wanted by ICC in preparation for trial

October 12, 2008 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government revealed today that a militia leader wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been detained and will stand trial for his alleged role in Darfur war crimes.

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Ali Kushayb

The Sudanese justice minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat told the Associated Press from Cairo that militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb “is in government custody”.

“Kushayb will be tried in Sudan’s domestic courts. He is under investigation. He will be held accountable” Sabdarat said.

The move come almost three months after the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced in mid-July that he requested an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

Following that Sudan has been looking into ways that would allow it to avoid confrontation with the international community over the ICC through conducting trials for lesser suspects.

The judges of the ICC issued arrest warrants last year for Kushayb and Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs on 51 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes. But Khartoum has so far refused to hand them over.

Khartoum had long claimed that Kushayb was in custody since November 2006 for investigations into allegations of violations he committed during the peak of the Darfur conflict in 2004.

Sudan’s former Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told a news conference in Khartoum in February 2007 that “Ali Kushayb, along with two other individuals, was sent for trial. He was detained as a suspect, questioned, his statements were evaluated and witness statements recorded, and then the decision was taken to refer him to court”.

But in March 2007 Kushayb’s trial was delayed when the defendants filed an appeal with the Justice ministry after which Abu-Zeid told reporters that Kushayb’s appeal was denied that there is “sufficient evidence to proceed with the case”.

Shortly afterwards the Sudanese justice ministry ordered a ban on publishing reports or details relating to criminal cases on Darfur conflict and many observers at the time voiced skepticism over Khartoum’s seriousness to try perpetrators of crimes in the war ravaged region.

In October 2007 Sudan’s former foreign minister Lam Akol told the pro-government daily Al-Rayaam from New York that Kushayb was freed “due to lack of incriminating evidence against him”.

However Al-Mardi issued a quick denial to the Al-Rayaam report describing it as “false” without directly commenting on Akol’s statements.

The former Justice Minister was asked again by Al-Rayaam last November on the whereabouts of Kushayb and he reiterated that the militia leader was “never released” before saying that he refrained from commenting on the issue “because it is under investigation”.

In April the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid Al-Mubarak was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) as saying that Haroun and Kushayb were not prosecuted “because there is no evidence against them”.

Again in June Amin Hassan Omar, a leading figure in the National Congress Party (NCP) and a state minister also confirmed Kushayb’s release.

Sabdarat did not say on what charges will Kushayb be prosecuted despite earlier assertions that he has been cleared from any wrongdoings.

The ICC Statute prevents investigation into crimes that were looked into by local judiciary under the concept of “complementarity”.

Sudan must prosecute Haroun and Kushayb for the same accusations brought against them by the ICC in order for the latter to lose jurisdiction over their cases.

Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, but the UN Security Council (UNSC) triggered the provisions under the Statute that enables it to refer situations in non-State parties to the world court if it deems that it is a threat to international peace and security.

(ST)