SUDAN WATCH: Haskanita: Sudanese rebel leader Bahar Idriss Abu Garda appears at ICC

Monday, May 18, 2009

Haskanita: Sudanese rebel leader Bahar Idriss Abu Garda appears at ICC

Abu Garda arrived in the Netherlands Sunday on a commercial flight from Egypt before being taken to an undisclosed location under court authority.

He gave his profession as "commander of a resistance movement."

ICC judge Cuno Tarfusser set Oct. 12 for a hearing of evidence in the case after which judges must rule whether the case is strong enough to merit a trial.

The judge said Abu Garda is expected to leave the Netherlands on Tuesday.

The following report refers to Mr Garda as Sudanese. Now I am wondering if he is actually Chadian.

Sudanese rebel leader appears at war crimes court
By MIKE CORDER – 18 MY 2009:
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Sudanese rebel leader appeared at the International Criminal Court Monday after turning himself in voluntarily to face war crimes charges over an attack on African peacekeepers in Darfur.

Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, 46, is the first suspect from the Sudan conflict to come before the court.

At a 35-minute hearing, Judge Cuno Tarfusser informed him of the charges, which include murder, pillaging and attacking peacekeepers during an attack in September 2007.

More than 1,000 rebel soldiers stormed the African Union base in Haskanita, northern Darfur, and overpowered peacekeepers from Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Botswana.

Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said 12 peacekeepers were killed and eight were severely wounded. The rebels also looted weapons, equipment and money, according to a prosecution statement.

Violence between ethnic African rebels and government troops backed by militia has killed up to 300,000 people since 2003 and left about 2.7 million homeless, according to the U.N.

Abu Garda is the first rebel to be charged in the Darfur conflict. Sudanese government officials including President Omar al-Bashir have been charged with war crimes but refuse to acknowledge the court's jurisdiction.

Abu Garda arrived Sunday on a commercial flight from Egypt before being taken to an undisclosed location under court authority.

Tarfusser thanked him for surrendering.

"The court appreciates very much your voluntary appearance...," Tarfusser said. "In doing so, I think you have sent out a very good message."

Abu Garda, wearing a gray suit and striped tie, answered "yes" when asked whether he understood the charges and his rights.

He was not required to enter a plea but was expected to make a public statement later Monday.

He gave his profession as "commander of a resistance movement."

Tarfusser set Oct. 12 for a hearing of evidence in the case after which judges must rule whether the case is strong enough to merit a trial.

The judge said Abu Garda is expected to leave the Netherlands on Tuesday.

British defense lawyer Karim Khan said Abu Garda has not yet decided whether to attend the October hearing.

Asked at the end of the hearing if he had anything to say, Abu Garda thanked court officials for making the arrangements for him to get to the Netherlands.

Rights groups said the trial was important for establishing respect for peacekeepers.

The case "signals the seriousness of deliberately attacking peacekeepers who are defending civilians," Human Rights Watch spokesman Richard Dicker said.

The country's president, al-Bashir, was charged in March with orchestrating war crimes, but refused to recognize the Hague-based tribunal's authority or meet with investigators.

"Voluntary appearance is always an option ... including for President al-Bashir, should he elect to cooperate," Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement Sunday.

The International Criminal Court prosecutes war crimes in countries where it has jurisdiction. It has been granted jurisdiction in Sudan by the United Nations.
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Update: See Sudan Watch:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - ICC charges URF Commander Bahar Idriss Abu Garda with murder, directing attacks and pillaging


Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - Sudanese and Chadian civilians getting away with murder and war crimes against peacekeepers

Thursday, May 21, 2009 - A Sudanese rebel leader manipulates the ICC - URF's Abu Garda could be hiding a political ambition to "outdo his opponents"

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