As the first week of the International Criminal Court (ICC) trial of Abd-Al-Rahman, better known as “Ali Kushayb,” comes to a close, we want to commend the powerful statements by the prosecution and the bravery of the victims, who will come forward, albeit anonymously, to tell their stories. The judges have authorized 142 victims to participate in the trial. With the brave cooperation of the victims and the tireless work of the prosecution to present strong evidence, we are confident Ali Kushayb will be convicted of all 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Victims will finally realize the beginning of long-awaited justice.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan began his opening statements by commenting on the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The breaking of the fast every evening is called iftar. He analogized and noted that in Sudan, “there has been another fast that they have been partaking, not because it is their choice, but it is the waiting for justice, and from that perspective, this is a momentous day. It is an iftar of sorts for the millions of Sudanese throughout the world for this day to come.”
Ali Kushayb was a former leader of the cruel Janjaweed militia. He is responsible for leading the horrific operations of systematic murder, torture, and rape of innocent men, women, and children. Ali Kushayb, as described by witnesses, tortured them through beating, and has killed people with an axe. Additionally, he ordered the execution of at least 5 children between the ages of 10 to 12. Ali Kushayb also commonly arrested people with the guise that they were “rebels” and would order the Janjaweed to murder them. In one instance, the Janjaweed murdered 137 people over the course of just 3 days. This is only the beginning of victim testimony. While these details are excruciatingly painful to hear, it is imperative to tell the stories of the victims, so that each of them have their day in court. It is also imperative to share these stories to achieve justice and raise public awareness of the Darfur genocide.
Ali Kushayb, who has pleaded not guilty to all 31 counts, in his opening remarks claimed that, “I came of my own free will. No one brought me here. I came here to correct the misleading falsehoods attributed to me, and I congratulate the International Criminal Court for being a fair court of law.” We must disagree that the charges against him are “misleading falsehoods.” It is no surprise that he denies the charges, but we have no doubt that the ICC has a qualified prosecution team, team of lawyers, and judges presiding over the case, that will no doubt deliver the justice that Darfuri victims deserve. The process of justice may take time, but the truth will eventually come out in the coming months. We are looking forward to witnessing innocent Darfuris and Sudanese people, affected by his inhumane crimes, rejoice in seeing him behind bars.
In the meantime, we ask the public to stand in solidarity with Darfur and continue to support not only the Ali Kushayb trial, but to demand accountability for other indictees. We ask the public, our supporters and partners, to bring attention on social media and through other means to the situation in Darfur and Sudan at large. We equally urge the media to keep the coverage and focus on this important case that has been largely neglected for years. Additionally, we demand the international community, the UN and its bodies, including the UN Security Council, and the member states of the ICC to continue its efforts to hold other perpetrators of the Darfur genocide accountable. Former President Omar Al-Bashir still remains at large and orchestrated the genocide under his regime. Justice is not just convicting Ali Kushayb, but convicting all perpetrators responsible for the mass atrocities committed in Darfur for the past 20 years. Together, through our efforts, we can stop and prevent further genocide in Darfur.
We urge the United States to support accountability for crimes in Sudan because there will not be peace, security or stability in Sudan unless there is accountability. We urge you all to stand with us collectively to empower the victims and the affected communities to seek justice and restore their livelihood.