[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] on Friday completed the confirmation of charges hearing [press release] against Sudanese war crimes suspect Bahr Idriss Abu Garda [case materials]. During the hearing, prosecutors alleged that Abu Garda controlled rebel forces during the September 2007 attack [BBC report] against African Union peacekeepers in North-Darfur. Abu Garda is suspected of having led the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) [official website, in Arabic] during the attacks, resulting in the death of 12 African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) soldiers and several injuries. The defense argued that Abu Garda is not responsible for the attack and that the AMIS had lost its protected status under international law, making it a legitimate military target. The hearing was to address three charges arising out of the attacks that include violence, pillaging, and intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission. The pre-trial chamber will announce its decision within 60 days, determining how the case proceeds. Abu Garda is the first suspect to appear before the ICC in regard to the Darfur situation [JURIST news archive].
The confirmation hearing, during which prosecutors had to allege sufficient evidence for each charge, began last week [JURIST report]. 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. In July, prosecutors appealed [JURIST report] the court's decision to not charge Bashir with genocide. The ICC originally issued the arrest warrant [JURIST report] for al-Bashir in March, resulting in much controversy [JURIST news archive].