The Sudanese government Sunday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for cooperating on the trial of former militant leader Ali Kushayb who is accused of committing war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan.
According to the Prosecutor, Kushyab was a top commander of pro-government Janjaweed militias that led attacks on towns and villages and is implicated in more than 300 murders and the forcing of 40,000 mainly Fur civilians from their homes. He is accused of persecution, murder and rape in the western Sudanese region of Darfur in 2003-2004. The court had issued an arrest warrant for him in 2007, which remained outstanding as he was on the run. He handed himself over to UN troops in the Central African Republic last June. From there he was sent to face trial at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands. He is the first Sudanese suspect taken into ICC custody.
Since Sudan is not a member of ICC, there have been various hurdles in bringing the accused officials to trial. The ICC investigation opened in June 2005, following referral of the situation by the UN Security Council. The investigation has produced several cases and arrest warrants, including arrest warrants against former president Omar Al-Bashir, who has evaded arrest for over a decade. Other ICC suspects include former Sudanese Government officials, militia or Janjaweed leaders, and leaders of the Resistance Front, who have been charged with crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda visited Khartoum last October to set the stage for constructive cooperation with Sudan and discuss options for the trial of former al-Bashir and others indicted over crimes committed in Darfur.
According to a statement issued by the Public Prosecution of Sudan on Monday, it is still unclear if the memorandum includes other officials accused of crimes in Darfur apart from Kushyab. However, the cooperation agreement is an important step in the trial of Ali Kushyab at the ICC and allows the many victims of the Darfur conflict to finally get justice.