SUDAN WATCH: ICC Haskanita: Targeting of peacekeepers is a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute

Monday, April 27, 2009

ICC Haskanita: Targeting of peacekeepers is a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute

According to the ICC prosecution, militant groups frequently make the calculation that an attack against peacekeepers will prompt their withdrawal from the country – enabling them to target the civilian population, no longer under the watchful eye of the international community.

“We really hope to show very clearly to the perpetrators, ‘well, that’s not a calculation you can have any longer’,” the advisor to the prosecution said.

“When you attack peacekeepers, you attack indirectly the whole population. Those AU peacekeepers were there to protect the 2.5 million displaced in Darfur. Attacking the AU peacekeepers put in danger all of the civilians that were under their care.”

Sudan: Prosecutors hit back at rebel case criticism
By Amy Stillman/IWPR, London, 27 April 2009 (via Human Rights Tribune):
As International Criminal Court, ICC, judges prepare to consider a case brought against Sudanese rebel leaders, the prosecution has rejected claims that the case was opened in order to seem impartial in its approach to the conflict

Special advisor to the ICC prosecution Béatrice Le Fraper du Hellen says the Office of the Prosecutor, OTP, would “strongly challenge” criticism that the case lacks the same level of gravity as others put before the court.

“As a judicial institution, we can only apply the criterion which is in the [ICC’s founding document, the Rome] Statute, and we can only follow the evidence,” Le Fraper du Hellen said. “For us [this case] ranks very high in the crimes committed since 2003 in Darfur.”

In November last year, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested that judges issue a summons for three Sudanese rebel commanders to appear before the court, accusing them of an attack against African Union, AU, peacekeepers in 2007.

Pre-Trial Chamber 1, which is handling the case, will decide on whether the accused rebel leaders should be issued with a summons or an arrest warrant, depending on their willingness to appear before the court.

A hearing on the case took place on April 21, and the prosecution expects ICC judges to make their decision in the coming weeks.

But Darfuris and Sudanese activists have questioned the motives of the prosecution in pursuing the case, which they say involves crimes less grave than the atrocities allegedly committed by Sudanese officials indicted by the ICC.

Many believe that the prosecution has targeted rebel leaders in order to appear impartial in the eyes of the international community and African governments.

“I think this is a tactical move by the prosecutor to show balance and put more pressure on the government and its backers [rather] than a serious case,” Ahmed Abuzaid, a journalist from the south Darfur regional capital of Nyala, said, expressing a widespread view.

At least twelve peacekeepers were killed, and eight others seriously wounded when up to 1,000 Sudanese rebels connected to the Justice and Equality Movement, JEM, allegedly attacked AU peacekeeping troops, known as AMIS, at the Haskanita military base in north Darfur.

The prosecution accuse the rebel commanders of war crimes, including violence to life, pillaging, and directing attacks against personnel, installations, material units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission.

Hafiz Mohamed, head of the Sudan programme for Justice Africa, said, “There are many cases of this kind of attack, even more severe than the Haskanita one.

“I think he [the chief prosecutor] wants to show the world or public opinion, generally, especially inside Sudan, that he is also targeting government opponents, not only government officials.”

But the prosecution denies any political considerations in its decision-making.

“Equidistance between the parties is not a criterion under the [Rome] Statute,” Le Fraper du Hellen said. “That’s a political consideration, and the prosecutor of the ICC cannot follow this kind of consideration.

“Even if we did that, of course, the judges would never grant us an arrest warrant or summons to appear on this basis, so I don’t think people should be too worried about that.”

Mohamed told IWPR that while Justice Africa approved of the case, an indictment of Sudanese rebels “will not be welcomed” in Darfur. Many people will wonder why the ICC is “going after armed groups and not holding [Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir] responsible [for the crimes he is accused of by enforcing the court’s decision to arrest him]”.

The ICC issued an indictment against Bashir on March 4 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since the arrest warrant was issued, the president has defied the ruling and expelled at least 13 aid agencies from the country.

The ICC “has to do everything possible now to get him [Bashir] arrested without wasting time and efforts on other cases”, said Yasin Barra, a Darfuri refugee based in the Abunabak camp in eastern Chad.

Some NGOs have welcomed the prosecutor’s decision to bring a case against the rebel leaders, however, in the hope that it will prevent further attacks against peacekeepers.

“The scale and the magnitude of the atrocities don’t compare to those committed by government forces, but because these crimes could have serious effects on the ability of peacekeeping operations to carry out their work, they are serious crimes that should be prosecuted,” Sara Darehshori, senior counsel member of the Human Rights Watch International Justice Programme, said.

Mariana Pena, representative of the International Federation for Human Rights, FIDH, says that bringing the case against the rebels could be a significant deterrent against further attacks.

The case, she said, is also important for “showing the impartiality” of the ICC, as “from our point of view, it’s very good that he [the prosecutor] goes after all parties involved, because it’s not only about being impartial, but also about being perceived as impartial”.

The case was opened following mounting criticism against the ICC from African countries, which accused the court of failing to look at all sides of the conflict.

“A lot of African countries have said [the ICC] is just focused on the government side, but the rebels also committed crimes,” Ahmed Mohammedain, head of the Darfuri community organisation Darfur Call, said.

“The ICC is in a position that in order to divert the emphasis of criticism that is put on it, [it] is now trying to find some kind of balance.”

Lorraine Smith, from the International Bar Association based in The Hague, told IWPR that though the number of victims in the Haskanita attack was small, the case seemed to be designed “to send a much larger message” that the international community will not accept attacks against peacekeepers.

“But the timing and the fact that it is the first case of its kind before the ICC has raised questions in people’s minds,” she said.

While the intentional targeting of peacekeepers is considered a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute, to date, no similar cases have been brought before the court.

According to Smith, this is because so far the OTP appears to have used a “quantitative gravity assessment” when deciding whether to bring a case forward.

“In the past…they’ve taken [a] more quantitative assessment of gravity: the number of victims, scale of the violence, and that sort of thing,” she said.

In the case against the rebels, the OTP has focused on the impact of attacking a peacekeeping force rather than the scale of the atrocity.

“For us, gravity is not only the scale, the number of crimes, you have also to include what we would call ‘qualitative factors’, like the nature of the crime, the manner of commission, and the impact,” Le Fraper du Hellen said.

According to the ICC prosecution, militant groups frequently make the calculation that an attack against peacekeepers will prompt their withdrawal from the country – enabling them to target the civilian population, no longer under the watchful eye of the international community.

“We really hope to show very clearly to the perpetrators, ‘well, that’s not a calculation you can have any longer’,” the advisor to the prosecution said.

“When you attack peacekeepers, you attack indirectly the whole population. Those AU peacekeepers were there to protect the 2.5 million displaced in Darfur. Attacking the AU peacekeepers put in danger all of the civilians that were under their care.”

Some believe that deciding on the gravity issue has been stalling the judges’ decision. This comes after the prosecution’s request for the case to be expedited was refused on March 2 because, according to the public redacted statement released by the Pre-Chamber 1, “it raises a number of issues of particular complexity”.

"Gravity may well be one of the complex issues that the chamber is grappling with," Smith said, “but without public access to the confidential documents it is hard to say."

The OTP believes that the delay is related to resolving technical legal problems. IWPR understands that judges must be satisfied that peacekeepers involved are protected persons under the Rome Statute and that the AU base was not a legitimate military objective.

The prosecution has continually pushed for a speedy ruling on the case in order to take advantage of the accused rebel leaders’ apparent willingness to appear before the court.

Amy Stillman is an IWPR contributor in London. Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam, a regular IWPR contributor in Belgium, helped to compile this report.
- - -

From Aegis Trust UK circulated on Google's newsreel Saturday, 18 April 2009:
Darfuri rebel commanders should give themselves up to ICC
20 Nov 08 - The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is today seeking arrest warrants for three Darfuri rebel commanders for an attack on African Union peacekeepers in September 2007 in which 12 AU soldiers were killed. The ICC has not given the names of the commanders, or named the rebel groups in which they are involved.

It has, however, invited the commanders to give themselves up as an alternative to arrest, giving ‘all concerned commanders of rebel forces in Darfur ... the opportunity to express their willingness to voluntarily appear before the Court’, and stating that summons to appear could be issued instead of arrest warrants if such willingness is expressed.

The rebel commanders wanted by the ICC are suspected of planning and directing the attack on 29 September 2007 against the African Union Military Group Site at Haskanita, North Darfur. Twelve peacekeepers were killed, eight were severely wounded, and AU communications installations, dormitories and vehicles were destroyed. According to the ICC case summary, following the attack the wanted commanders personally took part in pillaging the camp, removing ‘approximately seventeen vehicles, as well as refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, military boots and uniforms, fuel, ammunition and money.’

The war crimes with which the three rebel commanders are charged include murder, intentionally directing attacks against personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging.

“The Aegis Trust welcomes the ICC’s move to charge rebel commanders suspected of responsibility for the raid on Haskanita. This is not about moral equivalence - the rebels are not accused of conducting a genocidal campaign akin to the Government orchestrated atrocities. But attacks on aid workers and murder of peacekeepers cannot be tolerated,” says Aegis Chief Executive Dr James Smith. “We hope that by contrast with the refusal of the Sudanese Government to cooperate with the ICC, rebel commanders will take note of the opportunity offered by the Court and volunteer to appear before it to be held accountable for their actions.”
Four Darfur rebel leaders

Photo: From left to right: Secretary of external affairs at the Darfur United Resistance Front (URF) Tag Al-Din Bashir; Leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) legacy faction Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur; Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) humanitarian coordinator Suleiman Jamous; Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) leader Khalil Ibrahim. Source: Sudan Watch March 04, 2009: Darfur rebels vow full ICC cooperation ahead of ruling on Bashir case
- - -

From Sudan Tribune 11 March 2009:
ICC prosecutor press judges for ruling on rebel case by Wednesday
March 10, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo submitted a new request to the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I last Friday asking them to decide on a case he submitted last November against three unidentified Darfur rebel figures.

The prosecutor’s application that was made public today came few days after the judges rejected his request to consider the evidence against the rebel commanders on an expedited basis.

At the time the Pre-Trial Chamber I said that they were preparing for their March 4th decision on the case against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

They also informed the prosecutor that “in light of the complexity of several aspects of the Prosecution Application” they will in the future refuse to take into account any request for expedited proceedings” or “decide in a manner detrimental to the fundamental rights of the persons for whom warrants of arrest or summonses to appear are requested”.

The ICC’s third case on Darfur, opened in late 2007, investigates a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base that left 10 African Union (AU) soldiers dead and one missing.

The counts against the rebel leaders in the case filed under seal included war crimes of violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission and pillaging.

Ocampo appealed again for a quick ruling saying the composition of the Pre-Trial Chamber I may change after new judges are sworn in.

“The Prosecution notes that the decision on Omar Al Bashir was issued on 4 of March and that new Judges will be sworn in on 11 March 2009, and that this may have an impact on the current composition of the Pre-Trial Chambers of the Court including possibly PTC I” the filing read.

“The Prosecution is of the view that if PTC I were to be reconstituted before a decision on the Application is rendered, the new PTC will require substantial additional time to acquaint itself with the Situation”.

Furthermore the prosecutor said that “the complexity of some issues in the case, as already observed by PTC I…. a newly constituted PTC I may not be in a position to render a decision on the Prosecution’s Application within a short period of time”.

It is not clear why the prosecutor has been persistently pushing the judges for a verdict but it is likely related to chances of the suspects appearing voluntarily in court.

It is not uncommon for the prosecutor to ask judges for expedited consideration on his applications. Similar requests were made in other cases being handled by the court.

One example is the case against former vice president of Congo Jean Pierre Bemba where the prosecutor said that a quick decision was needed on his application as they have received intelligence that he plans to leave Belgium where he resided which posed risks that he could not be apprehended afterwards.

The judges granted the request enabling the ICC to nab Bemba in Belgium within two weeks of the prosecutor’s application.

Ocampo filed a request with the Chamber on 22nd and 24th December of last year asking for permission to notify the rebel commanders that they have been named as suspects in the application.

The prosecutor justified his request by saying that the notification will enable the rebel commanders to “appear before the Court at an appropriate time”. However the chamber denied the request.

On February 23rd Ocampo informed the judges that he has sent a mission to an undisclosed location “to conduct an interview under Article 55 of the Rome Statute”

Article 55 of the Rome Statute deals with the right of person during the investigation which could indicate that the individual interviewed is one of the suspects who informed the prosecutor of his willingness to turn himself in the event he is indicted.

Two days later the prosecutor filed his request for expedited consideration of the case and noted that it addressed the issue of visas for the suspects.

“In the course of its efforts to explore securing visas for [REDACTED,] it has become clear that a decision of the Court would facilitate the successful outcome of these visa procedures” the filing read.

“Taking into consideration the additional information provided and in the interest of judicial economy, the Prosecution respectfully requests the Chamber to render an expedited decision on the Prosecution’s Application before 11 March 2009”

At this stage the prosecutor appears to be leaning towards a summons rather than an arrest warrant for the rebel suspects.

The ICC prosecutor in his November 20th application left the door open for an issuing a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant if the rebel commanders cooperate.

Ocampo told Agence France Presse (AFP) last year that “while the judges decide on the warrants, they [suspects] now have the chance to appear on their own accord. They know who they are”.

All major Darfur rebel movements have publicly announced that they will cooperate with the ICC even if asked to surrender themselves over in connection with the Haskanita attack.

Sudan refuses to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC saying it has not ratified the treaty establishing the court. Currently there are three ICC arrest warrants pending for president Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

Khartoum has also said that they will not accept that any Sudanese citizens including rebels to be extradited to The Hague.
- - -

From Sudan Tribune 03 March 2009:
ICC judges reject prosecutor’s request for expedited decision on Darfur rebel case
March 02, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber I at the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a decision today rejecting the prosecutor’s request to consider on an expedited basis the case he submitted last November against the three unidentified rebel figures.

The ICC judges recalled a previously unannounced decision they made last December refusing to allow prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to disclose names of the Darfur rebel commanders who have allegedly masterminded an attack on African Union (AU) peacekeepers in October 2007.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s third case on Darfur, opened in late 2007, investigates a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base that left 10 African Union (AU) soldiers dead and one missing.

The counts against the rebel leaders in the case filed under seal included war crimes of violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission and pillaging.

Attacking peacekeepers constitutes a war crime under the Rome Statute which forms the basis of the ICC.

Last December the Pre-Trial Chamber I judges asked the prosecutor for “additional information and supporting materials” on the rebels case by January 26. Ocampo submitted his responses to the judges on January 16th and the 26th.

The redacted version of the judges’ decision today show that Ocampo filed a request with the Chamber on 22nd and 24th December of last year asking for permission to notify the rebel commanders that they have been named as suspects in the application.

The prosecutor justified his request by saying that the notification will enable the rebel commanders to “appear before the Court at an appropriate time”. However the chamber denied the request.

The judges also mentioned that last week the prosecutor asked the judges to issue a quick ruling on the rebels’ case as well as three secret requests.

Today’s decision makes frequent references to a separate case being reviewed by the Chamber against Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir. It also mentions the February 3rd closed meeting held between the judges, the registrar, prosecutor and the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU).

The meeting was held to discuss aspects in relation to Bashir’s case according to court documents. There was no word on the specific issues tackled but judges revealed that in the session, Ocampo informed the judges of unspecified new events “and undertook to keep the Chamber informed of any developments in this regard”.

Furthermore the judges said that in reaching a decision on Ocampo’s request have considered “all issues raised by the Prosecution’s application for a warrant of arrest for Omar Al Bashir” after which they announced March 4th as decision date on Sudanese president’s case.

It is not clear why Al-Bashir’s case is mentioned in today’s decision though the prosecutor’s request suggests that the prosecutor wanted to begin the process of bringing the rebel commanders at court before March 4th as he believes that it may be more difficult to secure their appearance after that date.

The inference can be made considering the judges’ assertion today that “until the Chamber issues a decision on the Prosecution Application, States have no obligation, pursuant to either the Statute or the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593, to grant a visa to any such individual for the purpose of travelling to the Hague to appear before this Chamber”.

The ICC prosecutor in his November 20th application left the door open for an issuing a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant if the rebel commanders cooperate.

“Subject to the Pre-Trial Chamber’s determination, the Prosecution submits that a summons to appear could be an alternative pursued by the Court if the Court receives information as to the possible voluntary appearance of the individuals” the application reads.

Ocampo also told Agence France Presse (AFP) that “while the judges decide on the warrants, they [suspects] now have the chance to appear on their own accord. They know who they are”.

The Pre-Trial chamber brushed aside any prospects of a quick decision on the rebels’ case saying that a “particularly detailed analysis of the materials provided in the Prosecution Application and in the Prosecution’s Provision of Further Information is required”.

They also informed the prosecutor that “in light of the complexity of several aspects of the Prosecution Application” they will in the future refuse to take into account any request for expedited proceedings” or “decide in a manner detrimental to the fundamental rights of the persons for whom warrants of arrest or summonses to appear are requested”.

It is not uncommon for the prosecutor to ask judges for expedited consideration on his applications. Similar requests were made in other cases being handled by the court.

One example is the case against former vice president of Congo Jean Pierre Bemba where the prosecutor said that a quick decision was needed on his application as they have received intelligence that he plans to leave Belgium where he resided which posed risks that he could not be apprehended afterwards.

The judges granted the request enabling the ICC to nab Bemba in Belgium within two weeks of the prosecutor’s application.

Ocampo has in the past expressed confidence that his case against the rebel suspects would gain quick approval from the judges describing it as “straightforward”.

All major Darfur rebel movements have publicly announced that they will cooperate with the ICC even if asked to surrender themselves over in connection with the Haskanita attack.

Sudan refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC saying it has not ratified the treaty establishing the court. Currently there are two ICC arrest warrants pending for Ahmed Haroun, state minister for humanitarian affairs, and militia commander Ali Mohamed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also know as Ali Kushayb.

Khartoum has also said that they will not accept that any Sudanese citizens including rebels to be extradited to The Hague.
- - -

From Sudan Watch 20 November 2008: ICC's evidence against rebel commanders - 1,000 rebels attacked AMIS' Haskanita camp in N. Darfur on 29 Sep '07 murdering 12 peacekeepers, injuring 8
- - -

Associated Press report via africanpress 14 November 2008:
Darfur rebels targeted by ICC prosecutor - murdering for power in the African Continent
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday he will seek arrest warrants next week related to a deadly attack on African Union peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region.

The case is the first by the world’s first permanent war crimes tribunal to target Darfur rebels, who are fighting government troops and the allied janjaweed militia of Arab nomads in a five-year conflict that has left up to 300,000 dead.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo said his third Sudan investigation is focused on attacks in the northern Darfur town of Haskanita.

He gave no further details during a speech Friday, but earlier said he was investigating a rebel attack on the Haskanita military base on Sept. 29, 2007, that left 10 African Union soldiers dead and one missing.

Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement.

“We have not seen his application, but the significance must be the seriousness of killing … those who are mandated to protect civilians at risk,” Dicker told The Associated Press. API/Source AP
- - -

What happened at Haskanita? (Part 1)

Photo: SUDAN, Haskanita: A burnt out armoured personnel carrier smoulders at the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) military group site (MGS) 30 September [2007]. The MGS came under sustained and heavy attack on the night of 29 September [2007] by unidentified armed militia who eventually overran the site destroying equipment and AU property and looting vehicles. Ten protection Force Personnel were killed in the attack, while another 8 were seriously injured and evacuated to El Fasher, the administrative capital North Darfur and the Sudanese capital Khartoum. As of the evening of 1 October [2007], 22 AMIS personnel were still missing following the attack which was condemned in the strongest terms by the international community. AMIS PHOTO / STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch September 24, 2008: ICC prosecutor to investigate Sudan's Darfur rebels crimes - What happened at Haskanita? (Part 1)

Attack at Haskinata, N Darfur, W Sudan

Attack on AMIS' Haskanita base, N. Darfur, W. Sudan 29 Sept 07

Photo: SUDAN, Haskanita: African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) personnel place the bodies of dead colleagues into body bags 30 September 2007 at Haskanita military group site (MGS). AMIS PHOTO/STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch archives.

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: An African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) peacekeeper stands in front of the coffins of his killed colleagues during a funeral ceremony at the Mission's forward headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur province October 4, 2007. Seven Nigerian peacekeepers and three military observers from Mali, Senegal and Botswana were killed during an attack by rebel militia on their base in Haskanita during the night of 29 September 2007. Reuters/Stuart Price/AMIS/Handout/Sudan Watch 14 November 2008 ICC Prosecutor Ocampo seeks arrest warrants next week for rebels' attack on AU peacekeepers in Haskanita, S. Darfur, Sudan 29 Sep 2007 (Part 2)

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: The coffins of 7 Nigerian soldiers killed while on peacekeeping duty in Darfur are given military honors in a burial ceremony at Nigeria's main military cemetery in the capital Abuja, Friday, Oct. 5, 2007. Nigeria, the biggest troop contributor to African peacekeeping missions, suffered the heaviest losses when Darfur rebels overran an African Union post in North Darfur last weekend. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Murdered peacekeepers

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: In this photo made available by African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), AMIS personnel pay their last respects over a coffin of a peacekeeper during a funeral ceremony at the Mission's Forward Headquarters in El Fasher, Darfur, Sudan, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007. Rebel forces stormed a small African Union base in northern Darfur last week, killing 10 peacekeepers from the African Union mission. (AP Photo/AMIS PHOTO by STUART PRICE/Sudan Watch archives)

Darfur peacekeepers funeral

Photo: Soldiers and civilians participate in a Muslim prayer next to the coffins of three Muslim soldiers, at a burial ceremony for seven peacekeepers killed while on duty in Darfur, Friday, Oct. 5, 2007. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba/Sudan Watcharchives)

Sudan Watch October 20, 2008: ICC prosecutor to indict Darfur rebels within weeks

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Photo: Officers from Gambia serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) lay the U.N. flag on a coffin before the funeral ceremony for seven slain peacekeepers in El Fasher July 12, 2008. The peacekeepers were killed in an ambush by Darfur militiamen while on a routine patrol in North Darfur on Tuesday, in the worst direct attack on UNAMID forces since they began work on December 31. REUTERS/Albany Associates/Stuart Price/Handout (SUDAN). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Photo: Soldiers from Gambia serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) stand near the coffins of seven slain peacekeepers before the funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008. The peacekeepers were killed in an ambush by Darfur militiamen while on a routine patrol in North Darfur on Tuesday, in the worst direct attack on UNAMID forces since they began work on December 31. REUTERS/Albany Associates/Stuart Price/Handout (SUDAN). FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS/Sudan Watch archives)

UNAMID funeral ceremony in El Fasher July 12, 2008

Rwanda soldier coffin returns 16 July 2008

Photo: Bodies of Rwandan soldiers, who were serving with the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region, return home, 16 Jul 2008. (T. Rippe/VOA)
+ + +

From Making Sense of Darfur, 11 October 2007:
Accounting for Haskanita
By Julie Flint
Two questions about the original posting about the attack on the AMIS base in Haskanita:

1. The attackers have been “clearly identified” as rebels. Clearly identified by whom? And what makes the identification “clear” ? I very much doubt that AMIS personnel in Haskanita had much interaction with the mass of rebels in Haskanita, and the evidence I have seen suggests that no rebel leaders participated in the attack. As one investigator says, those who did were “some way down the food chain”.

The little I know, from afar, suggests that the identity of the individuals who attacked the base is still unclear, although the presumption that they were rebels is the most likely one. Khalil Ibrahim of JEM was, I think, the first to name names - to the BBC’s Arabic service - but Khalil has an axe to grind: SLA Unity had refused to work with him when the JEM leadership split, preferring cooperation with the rival faction led by Bahr Abu Garda and Abdalla Banda. To begin to understand what happened at Haskanita, and why, we need to know exactly who led/participated in this attack. The UN is investigating reports that government soldiers and Rizegiat militia were seen selling AMIS belongings in el Deain market over the weekend.
There is much about what happened at Haskanita, and why, that is unclear.

2. The attack was “clearly planned and premeditated” . I think evidence is needed to support this statement. I personally do not have it. One of those inside the base during the attack has said that the men who attacked the base were “very drunk” . They “ransacked and looted EVERYTHING”¦ They took all the food, fuel, vehicles, ransacked the clinic.” This does not suggest a “clearly planned” attack. It suggests a drunken rampage.

On the morning of the attack on the base, Suleiman Jamous, recently released from detention in Kadugli and still in Chad, was informed that there was a rising tide of anger among rebels in Haskanita - especially within the rank and file. They were incensed that AMIS had not spoken out publicly about the aerial bombardment of the area over the past several weeks. Furthermore, they believed the AMIS base in Haskanita was being used as a “ground station” for directing aerial bombardment.
 They had intercepted, on FM radio, conversations between Antonovs and a man on the ground speaking Sudanese Arabic. (Anyone who doubts this is possible should revisit the Philip Cox’s 2004 film on Darfur, which has a recording of just such a conversation.) The speaker on the ground allegedly gave details of rebel positions and asked for aerial bombardment of one of them. Since Haskanita was under rebel control, the rebels’ presumption, according to this account, was that the man on the ground was inside the AMIS base - presumably the government representative in the base. (Abdel Aziz, the rebel representative, was expelled last year when the AU ejected all non-signatories. He tried to claim allegiance to Minawi’s signatory faction in order to maintain a rebel presence in the base, but was rumbled.) This anger suggests a possible motive, depending on who carried out the attack almost 12 hours later, but not necessarily planning. I am not sure how much “planning” an attack like this would require. I doubt that whoever attacked the base expected resistance (if they were sober enough even to contemplate it). In the event, with one or two notable exceptions, the Nigerians in the base put up no fight.
It goes without saying that nothing justifies the attack. But its context is not irrelevant.

One thing I agree with: “The AU and its role need to be assessed objectively.” If they are not, where AMIS has gone, UNAMID is doomed to follow. I believe the demonization of the AU, about which I agree with Alex, may have instilled a belief, in all parties, that AMIS was fair game. But there is much about AMIS’s relationship with the Sudan government that requires “objective” assessment. Who is going to do it?

A final question. Alex says several people have challenged him. Why are they not challenging in this public forum? Alex has made in public the case for the prosecution. Are others not willing to make their own case equally publicly?

Responses to “Accounting for Haskanita”
Alex de Waal:
October 12, 2007
No-one has researched Darfur’s war with greater rigor, diligence and impartiality than Julie Flint. I have complete confidence that she is ahead of everyone else, including the UN and AU’s investigation teams, in getting to the bottom of what happened in Haskanita on that tragic night.

I wrote that the attack was mounted by the rebels because that is what the AU reported, based on what its soldiers witnessed. I wrote that it was planned because any offensive military action requires planning, even of a rudimentary and last-minute kind. (I make no claim that it was long-planned or strategically calculated.) Furthermore, the efforts of at least one SLA leader to prevent the attack shows that at least some of the rebels had shown their intent in advance. How events subsequently unfolded was controlled by no-one and the looting that followed the second attack was, by most accounts, a free-for-all.
I wrote the posting in anger, at the double standards of the international community, including the AU’s own fatalism. The level of outrage was—to put it diplomatically—modest. The main point emphasized by both African and UN diplomats in the following days was that the AU remained committed to sustaining its presence in Darfur and its role in the peace talks. That was a fair point, as far as it went. But it is hard not to detect an impatience to put the Haskanita incident in the past, as a mere inconvenience, and get on with whatever plans had already been laid. Even the proposal of suspending the participation in peace talks of whoever was found to be the culprit was only pushed in a half-hearted manner. It is a response that leaves AMIS as vulnerable as ever. Is this all the value attached to the lives of African peacekeepers? Imagine the reaction if ten NATO troops (or, for that matter, European and American aid workers) had been murdered.

I was angry too because it seems that "we" (the international community) have come to require lower moral standards of liberation fighters and rebels than we do of governments, especially governments with a sorry record of human rights abuses.
 There is a long history of activists and journalists making excuses for the violations committed by freedom fighters, both during the struggle and when they are in government. This applies not just to Sudan but to many other countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda and South Africa. The leaders of resistance wars become our friends and we stand in solidarity with their political causes. When they go astray our first instinct is to seek mitigating circumstances and to give the benefit of the doubt. I have been as guilty of this as anyone. But surely we should hold the leaders of liberation movements to HIGHER moral standards than the oppressive governments against which they fight. Explaining away their faults is, surely, a damaging condescension. Darfur’s armed movements have been indulged in this way—and not to their advantage. We would not give an iota of such indulgence to the Sudanese army or Janjawiid.

The UN-AU Haskanita investigation is due to report before the scheduled opening of the peace talks in Libya in two weeks’ time. Let us hope it identifies the culprits. Based on what is emerging, some criminalized junior elements of SLA and/or JEM were probably responsible, and more senior commanders will not be directly implicated. But the leaders of a liberation struggle also bear an irreducible responsibility to ensure that the troops that fight under their banner operate under strict discipline and moral code. Haskanita was a crime committed by a few, but the way in which a struggle under the slogans of liberation and justice is descending into banditry, at a significant margin, is a moral comedown for the entire leadership.
Julie has made greater effort to document the abuses of rebels, and to examine the sufferings of Darfur’s Arabs, than any other English language journalist. Her analysis of the local context of the attack, and especially the way in which AMIS has lost the respect of many Darfurians, is apposite. But there is another context that should be kept in focus: the value we place on the lives of African peacekeepers and the moral standards to which we hold liberation fighters.

Julie Flint:
October 14, 2007

Alex says "the UN-AU Haskanita investigation is due to report before the scheduled opening of the peace talks in Libya in two weeks’ time. Let us hope it identifies the culprits." It can, and must, identify the culprits. But it must do more: it must investigate the alleged use and abuse of the AMIS base by the Sudan government. To investigate the rebels without investigating their allegations would, without a shadow of doubt, make things worse - not better.

Alex also says the rebels have been indulged. Yes, and no. Since the DPA was signed in May last year, there has been a growing (and very belated) chorus of criticism of the rebels. Trouble, is, the lion’s share of the abuses for which the "rebels" have been blamed have not been committed by rebels - they have been committed by the former rebels of Minni Minawi, who now sits in government in Khartoum. These abuses range from torture and murder to rape and theft. In much of North Darfur, by contrast, the behaviour of the non-signatory rebels has been vastly improved since the signing of the DPA. This has not been commented on - far less rewarded, or epxloited - by those who have chosen to add rebel abuses to their public discourse, and who have often come dangerously close to equating rebel abuses with the government’s. This is abhorrent, even after Haskanita. The life of a Darfurian is no less valuable than the life of a peacekeeper, African or non-African, and the regime has killed ten thousand times ten Darfurians, and then some. Can anyone remember an instance when ten dead Darfurians have been newsworthy? - excluding, of course, the bloody wickedness in Greida, which was carried out by Minnists and blamed, most frequently, on "rebels".

While the "rebels" have been blamed for ex-rebels’ abuses, Minawi and his men have continued to be the international community’s partner in peace. Minawi has met a stream of international dignitaries and worthies in his capacity as Senior Assistant to President Bashir, making pious pronouncements about the importance of implementing the DPA and punishing those responsible for Haskanita while his own men have been getting away with murder.

Not least among those who have indulged the rebels - past and present - is the African Union itself. Who killed the five Senegalese peacekeepers on April 1 this year? I understand that it was Minawi’s men under his longtime Chief of Staff, Juma Mohammed Hagar. Where is the investigation into this report? Who pulled the triggers? What was the degree of command and control? (More, I suspect, than in Haskanita.) How has the "faction" responsible been held to account? Or is there one standard for Minawi and another for non-signatories? The question is rhetorical. There is and this must end.

In August last year, two Rwandan peacekeepers were killed while escorting a fuel convoy. Who killed them? I have asked the African Union and others, repeatedly, and have not had a response. The Meidop commander Suleiman Marajan was initially blamed, at least in private communications. If it was not him, and I do not believe that it was, who was it? If it was him, why was he invited to Arusha recently? The AU said at the time that the leaders of the groups responsible for the "despicable" attack would be held personally accountable. If they have been, I have missed it. If they have not been, the AU itself has encouraged impunity. Which is it?

There was a crime. There are criminals. Identify them, because they can be identified. Hold them to account, publicly. Or expect more of the same.

Alex says we develop a cozy relationship with our "friends" in resistance wars. We do. I have a "friend" who is said to have been involved in the attack on Haskanita. I find it hard to believe he was, and I do not want to believe he was. He does not drink and in recent months has spent much of his time quietly putting our small fires that can easily develop into infernos - a stolen car here, a poke at a rival "faction" there. I doubt the international community knew his name until it cropped up in the context of Haskanita. If he is guilty of involvement in any way, by commission or omission, he must take what is coming to him. But so must those who killed the Senegalese and Rwandans.

The AU stepped up to the plate in Darfur when no-one else did. Its performance has been patchy and very often very imperfect. But the eagerness, almost the glee, with which it has been condemned - especially by those who would probably have difficulty finding Darfur on a map - has been disgraceful (to borrow an adjective often thrown at the AU itself). I very much fear that UNAMID will make things worse. The AU peacekeepers who have died in Darfur demand justice. So can the AU please tell me who murdered its Senegalese peacekeepers? And its Rwandans? What has become of the killers and, more importantly, their masters? Am I wrong in thinking that one has an office in the presidential palace in Khartoum and another will be invited to the Libyan talks? I think not.

Labels:

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

Click HERE to scroll up ......Click HERE to scroll down