The International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague, Netherlands is set to hold it’s first court trial for atrocities commited in Darfur, Sudan nearly 20 years after violence tore through the African country.
A suspected former leader of the pro-government Janjaweed militia, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman will face trial in the court after being charged with 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Abd-al-Rahman surrendered to the ICC in 2020 after 13 years on the run. He is alleged to have participated in attacks on civilians in four towns in Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004.
Abd-al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, will be the first person to be tried by the ICC over a conflict that left about 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless.
Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir has not been arrested yet even though he is wanted on charges of genocide and war crimes.
The ICC accuses him and militias under his command of rape, torture, killing and pillaging.
“He is alleged to have implemented the counter-insurgency strategy of the Government of Sudan that also resulted in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur,” the ICC said.
“He is also alleged to have enlisted fighters, armed, funded and provided food and other supplies to the Janjaweed militia under his command,” it added.
He denies the charges and is currently in custody in Sudan after being ousted in a coup in 2019.
“[Tuesday] is a momentous day for victims and survivors in Darfur who never stopped fighting to see the day the cycle of impunity is broken,” Sudanese human rights lawyer Mossaad Mohamed Ali said.
“We hope the trial against Abd-al-Rahman will shed light on his responsibility for the horrendous crimes, in particular sexual crimes, committed by him and the government-backed Janjaweed militias under his command,” he added.
The trial comes amid an increase in violence in Darfur since a joint United Nations and African Union peace force ended its operations in the region more than a year ago.