Sudan: Darfur rebel leaders face war crimes at Hague

Image caption,
The two men were allowed to go free until their next hearing in November

Two Sudan rebel leaders have appeared at the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges over an attack on peacekeepers in Darfur.

Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus surrendered to The Hague on Wednesday after being secretly indicted last year.

Twelve African Union peacekeepers died in the 2007 attack in Haskanita.

The men called for other ICC indictees, such as Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, to hand themselves over.

Last year, the court issued an arrest warrant for President Bashir, accusing him of war crimes in Darfur. A Sudanese government minister and pro-government militia leader have also been indicted.

The next hearing in the case against the two rebel leaders was set for November.

In February, charges against another rebel leader to do with the same incident were dropped.

ICC judges ruled prosecutors could not prove that Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, who also gave himself up voluntarily, had planned the attack on the Haskanita AU camp in September 2007.

'Justice call'

"I came here voluntarily in response to the summons of the ICC and I call upon everyone who has been summoned by this court to come here to exonerate themselves," AFP news agency quotes Mr Banda as telling a panel of three judges.

His co-accused added: "We are here to achieve justice and I call on everyone who is wanted for justice to appear before this court."

The two have been charged with:

  • Murder
  • Intentionally directing attacks against peacekeeping personnel
  • Stealing property

"It is alleged that the attackers, numbering approximately 1,000, were armed with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers," said an ICC statement.

After the charges were read out, the men, who described themselves as "revolutionaries", were told they were free to go. The November hearing will decide whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial.

In January 2008, the UN took joint control of the peacekeeping force in Darfur with increased numbers and a stronger mandate.

Mr Bashir's indictment was the first issued by the ICC against a sitting president.

He strongly denies the charges - and his government says figures of those killed in the Darfur conflict have been massively exaggerated.

According to the UN, 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 ICC wants the UN Security Council to press Sudan to hand over to them those they have indicted.

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