In a substantial boost to its credibility, the International Criminal Court has confirmed that a former Sudanese militia leader facing an extraordinary 50 charges arising from one of the most vicious conflicts of the modern era will appear in the dock in The Hague next Monday.
Ali Kushayb, alleged to have been a leader of the infamous Janjaweed militia in Darfur, surrendered in a remote corner of the Central African Republic, near the border with Sudan, late on Monday, and arrived under tight security at the court's Dutch detention centre less than 48 hours later.
More than 300,000 people were massacred and 2.7 million driven from their homes during the Darfur conflict, and on Thursday prosecutor Fatou Bensouda described Mr Kushayb's arrest as "a sombre reminder that the victims of the atrocities have waited so long to see justice done".
In a video conference later, she urged the 15 members of the UN Security Council to encourage Sudan to do more to bring other defendants, including former president Omar al-Bashir – who was overthrown and detained by Sudan’s transitional authorities in April 2019 – to justice.
Mr Kushayb (62), also known as Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, was indicted by former International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in 2007, along with co-defendant Ahmed Haroun, who served as Sudan's minister of state for humanitarian affairs until 2009 and is still a fugitive.
Known as “aqid al-ogada” – colonel of colonels – Mr Kushayb is alleged to have “implemented the counterinsurgency strategy” of the Sudanese government in 2003 and 2004, and to have personally participated, while at his height, in notorious attacks that destroyed a number of towns and annihilated their populations.
He faces 22 counts of crimes against humanity and 28 counts of war crimes, all 50 of which will be read to him during his initial appearance before the judges on June 15th. The next stage will be a preliminary hearing, probably some months from now, to establish that grounds exist for a full trial.
If convicted, Mr Kushayb – who has personally been linked by witness evidence to 504 killings, 20 cases of rape and the forced displacement of 41,000 people – faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The war in Darfur began in February 2003, when rebels from the country's ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency against oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
The government responded with aerial bombing, attacks using helicopter gunships and MiG fighters, and by unleashing a reign of terror in the form of the Janjaweed, nomadic Arab tribesmen who swept through the region on horseback killing anyone who might support the rebels.
Omar al-Bashir is charged with having “individual criminal responsibility” for genocide in Darfur.