Sudan militia leader in custody on war crimes charges

BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (AP) — In a significant breakthrough in the pursuit of justice for crimes in Darfur, Sudanese militia leader Ali Kushayb, who is charged with 50 crimes against humanity and war crimes in the devastating conflict, has been arrested more than 13 years after a warrant was issued for him and transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, authorities said on Tuesday.

Kushayb surrendered to authorities in a remote corner of northern Central African Republic, near the country’s border with Sudan, International Criminal Court (ICC) spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said. He later added that Kushayb arrived at the ICC’s detention centre on Tuesday evening.

In the Darfur conflict, rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the government in Khartoum.

The government responded with a scorched-earth assault of aerial bombings and unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.

The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda said Kushayb’s surrender and transfer into the court’s custody nearly two decades after the Darfur conflict raged was “a powerful and somber reminder that the victims of atrocity crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan have waited too long to see justice done. The victims in the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court”.

The ICC charged Sudan’s ousted former president Omar al-Bashir with genocide for allegedly masterminding the campaign of attacks. Al-Bashir has not been turned over to the court to face trial. Kushayb’s detention sets the stage for the court to hold its first trial focussed on the Darfur conflict.

Managing Director of The Sentry (a watchdog group co-founded by George Clooney) Brad Brooks-Rubin called Kushayb’s detention “a modest triumph for the cause of accountability for atrocity crimes in Africa”.