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International Criminal Court Opens First Darfur Genocide Trial

Nearly two decades have passed since the Darfur region of Sudan was plunged into a genocidal wave of violence and turmoil. The war left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, both internally and abroad. The Sudanese government only recently signed a peace agreement with the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) in 2020. The preceding year, Sudan’s long-time ruler Omar al Bashir was deposed in a military coup, paving the way for new leadership in Sudan. According to al-Jazeera, South Sudan was instrumental in facilitating and hosting peace talks. In short, the War in Darfur seems to be reaching a terminal phase, with peace a real, though no less fragile possibility. It certainly is cause for hope among the people of Darfur and Sudan more broadly. 


Adding to this hopeful sentiment, the International Criminal Court has begun the trial of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman, the former leader of the Janjaweed militia. The ICC indicted him in July last year after he surrendered himself to the court in 2020. He stands accused of 31 separate counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, ranging from the murder of unarmed civilians and the systemic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. More importantly, per the BBC, the Hague hopes to prosecute the former militia leader for having “implemented the counter-insurgency strategy of the Government of Sudan that also resulted in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur”. This landmark case comes amid the backdrop of Sudan’s transition away from the regime of Omar al-Bashir, which has been fraught with difficulties and setbacks. In 2021, Sudan’s transitionary Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok got arrested after refusing to back a military coup. He was released a month later and reinstated in a power-sharing agreement brokered with the Sudanese military. He eventually resigned at the beginning of this year. According to CNN, this was due to the military failing to uphold its end of the “non-interference agreement.”


Omar al-Bashir, who the International Criminal Court (ICC) is after for crimes against humanity and genocide, is still being held in Khartoum. Sudan announced that it would extradite Bashir for trial to the Hague in August of 2021. So far, there is no indication of how far along these plans have progressed, but per the BBC, the ICC sent a delegation as early as October 2020 to discuss the specifics of the custody transfer. Depending on how the trial of Abd al-Rahman develops, Omar al- Bashir’s day in court may be just over the horizon.  

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Tags: #Sudan #Genocide #Africa #ICC #Darfur


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