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ICC begins Sudan rebel leader preliminary hearing

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Monday commenced the confirmation of charges hearing against Sudanese war crimes suspect and rebel leader Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials], the first suspect to appear before the ICC in regard to the Darfur [JURIST news archive] situation. Abu Garda is accused [press release] of committing war crimes by orchestrating a September 2007 attack [BBC report] against the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) [official website]. The ICC alleges that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [official website], under Abu Garda's command, killed 12 and wounded eight AMIS soldiers. Abu Garda voluntarily appeared in front of the ICC at the opening of the confirmation hearing [recorded video; recorded audio]. The confirmation hearing, at which the prosecutor must establish sufficient evidence for each charge against Abu Garda in order for the case to proceed to trial, is scheduled [text, PDF] to continue until October 29.

Abu Garda first appeared [JURIST report] before the ICC in May to deny responsibility for war crimes committed in Darfur. The court is also pursuing cases against Ahmad Harun, Ali Kushayb [TrialWatch Profiles], and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Al-Bashir is accused of leading the systematic harassment and murder of members of the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa ethnic groups under the pretext of counter-insurgency since 2003. The ICC issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March, charging him with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The controversial warrant [JURIST news archive] for his arrest had long been sought by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], who in July 2008 filed preliminary charges [JURIST report] against al-Bashir alleging genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in violation of Articles 6, 7, and 8 of the Rome Statute [text]. The court had originally refused to charge Bashir with genocide, but prosecutors appealed that decision [JURIST report] in July. This was the first time the ICC had issued an arrest warrant against a sitting head of state.

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