The International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to try a former Sudanese militia leader for war crimes in Darfur, a region ravaged by conflict, on Tuesday.
The trial at the Hague-based tribunal opens after about 45 people were killed last week in Darfur in fresh clashes between rival ethnic groups.
Seventy–two year old Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, an ally of deposed Sudanese strongman Omar al-Bashir, was a senior commander of the Janjaweed militia, an armed paramilitary faction created by the government.
If found guilty, Abd-Al-Rahman faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 2003-04 in the western Sudanese region. The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million people were displaced in the 2003-4 Darfur conflict.
The fighting first broke out when black African rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated regime. The Khartoum regime responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, a force drawn from among the region’s nomadic tribes.
Human rights groups said it was a “systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” targeting the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups. In April 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Abd-Al-Rahman, also known by the nom de guerre of Ali Kushayb.
The warlord fled to the Central African Republic in February 2020 when the new Sudanese government announced its intention to cooperate with the ICC investigation. Four months later, he surrendered voluntarily.
Prosecutors said, Abd-Al-Rahman, who carried the title of “colonel of colonels” in the Janjaweed, played a central role in a series of attacks on at least four villages in West Darfur. He is allegedly responsible with directing the attacks, as well as mobilising, recruiting, arming and supplying to Janjaweed militia under his command.