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ICC opens confirmation hearing on war crimes charges against Darfurian rebel

19 October 2009 – The International Criminal Court (ICC) today began a hearing into whether to confirm war crimes charges against a rebel leader accused of having directed the deadly September 2007 attack against peacekeepers in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur.

Bahr Idriss Abu Garda is charged with three war crimes – murder, attacks against a peacekeeping mission and pillaging – allegedly committed when 1,000 rebels attacked the Haskanita camp in South Darfur state on 29 September 2007.

Twelve peacekeepers serving with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), a predecessor to the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, were killed and eight others wounded in the attack.

Mr. Abu Garda, who commands a splinter group of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), appeared before The Hague-based ICC today. If the charges are confirmed at this hearing, he will then face trial.

Mr. Abu Garda is the first person to appear before the court voluntarily in response to a summons, with the court’s judges deeming an arrest unnecessary since they believed he would appear of his own accord.

“The presence of Abu Garda at the confirmation of charges hearing shows his willingness to cooperate with the court,” said ICC Registrar Silvana Arbia.

The rebel leader, 46, is also the first to appear in relation to the investigation into the situation in Darfur, which was referred to The Hague-based Court by the Security Council in 2005.

“The peacekeepers were deployed to serve and protect civilians in Haskanita. Instead, they were murdered,” ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week.

“The attack had consequences for the delivery of humanitarian aid as well as safety and security in the region. This cannot go unpunished,” he stressed.

At today’s hearing, the Prosecutor was tasked with supporting each charge against Mr. Abu Garda.

The pre-trial chamber will have 60 days from the end of the confirmation hearing to render its decision to confirm the charges, either in whole or in part; decline to confirm them; ask for further evidence; or amend the charges.

If the charges are confirmed, the case would then be transferred to a trial chamber, which will conduct the trial phase of the proceedings.

Mr. Abu Garda first appeared before the ICC in May, when he was informed of the crimes he is alleged to have committed and of his rights.

In March, an arrest warrant was issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the first sitting head of State to be indicted by the Court, for alleged war crimes committed in Darfur.

An estimated 300,000 people have died and another 3 million have been displaced in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003.

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