Today, April 5, 2022, marks the beginning of the trial against Ali Muhammad Ali Abd–Al-Rahman, commonly known as “Ali Kushayb,” the ruthless leader of the Janjaweed militia that both commanded and recruited the militias that carried out horrific attacks upon innocent men, women, and children of Darfur. On this day, we wish to applaud the International Criminal Court (ICC) teams at all levels, including its investigative team, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), and former prosecutors, for their efforts to pursue justice for the victims of the Darfur genocide. We also would like to applaud the Member States of the Rome Statute, the United Nations Security Council, world leaders, and civil societies across the globe who have stood up for justice and tirelessly fought for years for this day to come. These offices, people, and organizations have shown the Darfuri victims that they are not alone and that the pursuit of justice is possible.
Ali Kushayb will be tried for all 31 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur, which include intentional attacks against civilian populations, murder, pillaging, using rape as a weapon of war, torture, forcible transfer, and the persecution of the people of Darfur. Ali Kushayb’s trial has renewed a long-lost sense of hope for the affected communities of Darfur. The beginning of his trial represents a significant milestone in our fight for justice, as victims of the Darfur genocide will be heard in a court for the first time. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a long way to go. He is only one of the many perpetrators the ICC must pursue cases against in order to bring justice to the victims of the Darfur genocide.
In 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Kushayb, charging him with 22 counts of crimes against humanity and 28 counts of war crimes. This includes 504 instances of murder, 20 rapes, and the forced displacement of 41,000 people. While the Court’s arrest warrants recognized the crimes committed in the Wadi Salih and Mukjar localities of West Darfur between 2003 and 2004, he was also responsible for countless other instances of sexual violence, torture, and pillaging. Kushayb and his men have remained in and out of custody in Sudan for the past 17 years, continuing to commit a brutal genocide against the indigenous African people of Darfur. However, on February 8, 2020, Kushayb and his armed supporters reappeared in several skirmishes with the Sudanese Armed Forces based in South Darfur. He eventually escaped via Darfur’s southern border, crossing over to the Central African Republic (CAR). There, he voluntarily surrendered when his militia was pinned down by a combination of the CAR’s security forces and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
On July 9, 2020, Ali Kushayb was taken into ICC custody. Later, on June 11th, 2020, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the Court issued the second arrest warrant against Ali Kushayb, which included three additional charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Ali Kushayb subsequently made his first appearance before Pre-Trial Chamber II on June 15, 2020. As the confirmation of charges trial proceeded, in March 2021, the prosecution released an alternative version of the charges against Ali Kushayb, where charges were consolidated into 31 counts. All these charges were confirmed on July 9, 2021, a milestone towards justice for the victims of the genocide.
As the trial begins, the Office of Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV) will represent 151 victims as they testify against Ali Kushayb. However, thousands of victims within the affected communities, particularly women, have not been adequately reached out to, oriented, nor engaged in these proceedings. Therefore, it is imperative that the ICC and the States Parties to the Rome Statute simultaneously exercise pressure over Sudan to create an enabling environment that will allow as many victims as possible to engage in the proceedings for a full investigation of these crimes, as well as those committed by the other former Sudanese leaders indicted by the Court to bring about the long-waited justice for victims.
Although the trial of Ali Kushayb is an important milestone, DWAG wishes to remind the ICC and the State Parties to the Rome Statute that justice must not be selective or limited to officials at lower-ranking levels. For the victims from the affected communities, justice is no less than seeing Bashir — the president and commander-in-chief who ordered, sponsored, and mobilized support to the military to commit such crimes — ultimately held accountable. The unanswered cries for justice in Darfur and across Sudan have gone on for far too long due to the failure of both Sudanese institutions as well as the international community to identify sustainable solutions for effective accountability measures and fulfill the pending ICC arrest warrants. Given the grave reality of the situation in Sudan since the military coup of October 2021, it is imperative that UN Security Council members and State Parties to the Rome Statute stand for justice and accountability by equally supporting the ICC and protecting the victims and the affected communities in Darfur in their pursuit for justice.
The crimes committed against the people of Darfur are crimes of a global magnitude. Despite the fact that some world leaders have made strong statements about the need to hold perpetrators accountable, they have all failed to take concerted action to actually bring the individuals responsible for these crimes to face justice. Moreover, the recent developments in Sudan are a clear indicator of the consequences that can occur when the international community fails to hold despotic leaders accountable. Their inaction has emboldened the military regime to continue the tactics of the Bashir regime of violating international human rights and humanitarian laws, usurping power through a coup, and killing innocent civilians. By holding those responsible for the genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity accountable for their crimes, the international community would send a strong signal to the military junta of consequences that will come their way, as well. If the individuals responsible for the genocide escape justice, the military junta leaders will believe they could too. Thus, we must stand and demand justice and accountability for the genocide in Darfur. The trial of Ali Kushayb was attainable because of your fight. For this, we must continue fighting to bring all those responsible for the crimes in Darfur and elsewhere to foster a future without genocide.
We will be updating you with more information about the trial and provide action opportunities you can take to engage in advancing our call for justice.