The hearing on the confirmation of charges against suspected Darfur war criminal Bahr Idriss Abu Garda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) ended on October 30th.Abu Garda, 46, is a leader of the United Resistance Front (URF), a rebel group fighting against the Sudanese government. He is suspected of war crimes allegedly committed during the attack on the African Union peacekeeping mission at the Haskanita military base in North Darfur on September 29, 2007.The attack resulted in the death of twelve UN peacekeepers and serious injury to eight others. Abu Garda’s alleged crimes, which fall under article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute, include murder, pillaging, and directing an attack against a peacekeeping mission.
Closing statements were made on October 29th and 30th. The Legal Representatives of the Victims emphasized that the orphans, widows, and survivors of the attack could never be truly compensated for their losses. “Victims will always be victims, but to see that justice is done will give them some comfort,” said Akin Akinbote, one of the victims’ four Representatives.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda alleged that Abu Garda was responsible for planning and executing the attack, in which 1,000 armed URF rebels attacked a base manned by African Union peacekeeping troops. The Prosecution further argued that their evidence established Military Group Site (MSG) Haskanita’s protected status under international law at the time of the attack, and that its personnel and property were entitled to the protection accorded to civilians. They noted that the Defence had presented no evidence to contradict this assertion.
Karim Khan, Abu Garda’s Defence counsel, argued that his client was not responsible for the September 29, 2007 attack on Haskanita. He also argued that Haskanita did not enjoy protected status when the attack occurred.
The court has 60 days from October 30th to determine whether the evidence against Abu Garda is sufficient for the case to go to trial. Abu Garda is the first alleged war criminal to appear before the ICC for crimes in Sudan.