SUDAN WATCH: A Sudanese rebel leader manipulates the ICC - URF's Abu Garda could be hiding a political ambition to "outdo his opponents"

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"

In an interview with Sudan Radio Service on Wednesday, Bahar Idris Abu Garda claimed that he has no connection with the Haskanita attack in which 12 African Union’s soldiers were killed in 2007. Bahar Abu Garda spoke to Sudan Radio Service from Tripoli, Libya, two days after the hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. See full report here below.

A Sudanese rebel leader manipulates the ICC

The leader of the Sudanese rebel group, United Resistance Front (URF), Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, appeared for the first time on Monday before the International Criminal Court (ICC). He is suspected of war crimes; an attack against peacekeeping soldiers in Darfur two years ago (2007). According to Roland Marchal, a researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research (CERI), Bahar Idriss Abu Garda’s voluntary court appearance could very well be hiding a political ambition to "outdo his opponents."

From Wednesday 20 May 2009, by Stéphanie Plasse:
The leader of the United Resistance Front (URF) Monday appeared, of his own accord, before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The first case of this kind ever recorded by the international court. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda is suspected of looting and leading - with two other rebel leaders - an attack against African Union peacekeeping forces in Haskanita, located in northern Darfur, on September 29, 2007. But the rebel leader of the URF, a breakaway faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), denies any involvement.

A political play

According to Roland Marchal, a political specialist on Africa and researcher at the Center for International Studies and Research (CERI), the rebel leader’s attitude betrays a political ambition. "Bahar Idriss Abu Garda came for two reasons. First, because he has evidence and trusts he will be exonerated for the attack. Secondly, because he wants to outdo his political opponents, including Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), by accusing him. This is to get rid of somebody politically," he says. The URF leader honoured his court summons when he arrived Sunday in the Netherlands. On November 20 2008, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor of the ICC had issued arrest warrants — or court summons if they agreed to surrender — against three rebel leaders for their role in the Haskanita attacks which killed 12 people.

At his hearing Monday, the URF leader urged Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, to come and “face justice." But the researcher thinks he is trying to look good while “collaborating” with the International Criminal Court in a backdrop of total “indifference” from the head of state of his country, with respect to the arrest warrant issued against him in the month of March, 2009. According to his analysis, the ICC is, in this case scenario, a political tool. "It is not the fault of the Court if it is manipulated”. The “orchestration is almost inevitable” when justice is taken to a “politically unstable country”, said Roland Marchal. Since 2003, Darfur has been gripped by a civil war that has left 300 000 people dead and displaced about 2.7 million.

A first for the ICC

This voluntary appearance in court marks the first of its sort in the history of the ICC, at least under two circumstances. It is the first time that a Sudanese rebel leader appears before the Court. And it is also the first time that the ICC issues court summons and arrest warrants against persons who have killed peacekeeping soldiers. "Outside the political context, it is interesting to note that the Court protects and defends the peacekeepers who are there to ensure peace," says the researcher.

The President of the URF, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, will have to wait for the judges’ decision, which will be made after the confirmation hearing on October 12, 2009. The drama continues…
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From Sudan Radio Service Wednesday, 20 May 2009 (Nairobi/Tripoli):
The leader of the Darfur anti-government group, the United Front for Resistance, who appeared before the ICC for alleged war crimes on Monday, says that he went to The Hague voluntarily because he is innocent.

In an interview with Sudan Radio Service on Wednesday, Bahar Idris Abu Garda claimed that he has no connection with the Haskanita attack in which 12 African Union’s soldiers were killed in 2007.

Sudan Radio Service producer Hussein Halfawi spoke to Abu Garda.

Hussein Halfawi: Mr. Abu Garda, would you tell us about your experience in The Hague and why you went there?

[Abu Garda]: “As we know after the Haskanita incident, there were media rumors from some parties, especially from the group of the JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim, accusing some people, including myself, saying that our movement is involved in what had happened in Haskanita. We have refuted that and condemned the incident. Later, I discovered that my name was among the suspects. Because we really believe in the principle of justice, we should face justice, we can not call for others to be tried because they have committed crimes, but when we are among the suspects we get scared or lose the strength to face justice. So according to our belief in the principle of justice, I went to The Hague and am ready to face justice and defend myself. I know that I’m absolutely not involved in the Haskanita incident, so I went to The Hague for this issue and I appeared before the court and I have come back now.”

Hussein Halfawi: Mr. Abu Garda, the JEM senior official, al-Tahir al-Fakie, told the BBC that they advised and convinced you to go to The Hague voluntarily, is that true?

[Abu Garda ]: “Al-Tahir al-Fakie is a liar, he announced before that we gave information to the ICC and said Bahar Abu Garda is among the people who had committed the Haskinita crime. He is a liar. I have no connection at all with JEM. Unfortunately, they always try to benefit from any opportunity they get to pursue their interest. It was a silly and cheap attempt from JEM to benefit from this incident. I want to assure you through Sudan Radio Service that I have no connection or relation with Khalil Ibrahim’s group.”

Hussein Halfawi: Mr. Abu Garda, GONU has described your move as a conspiracy between the ICC and the anti-government groups against the president, what is your response to this?

[Abu Garda ]: “You know Halfawi, our main problem in Sudan is that the Government of Sudan and many others believe only in the idea of conspiracy, and that it is what has led to the eruption of conflict and prolonged conflicts in Sudan. They just hang their problems on the excuses of “conspiracy, foreign interference and the forces that are against Sudan”. These are the slogans they always use, which conspiracy? Is it possible that I have told the ICC to accuse me, I conspire against myself? The fact is I have been accused, and I have to defend myself.”

Hussein Halfawi: Most people view the ICC as a court which inspires fear, how is it that you so easily presented yourself before the court and in the same way you came out? What’s the message behind that?

[Abu Garda ]: “My message is, to any one who has been accused, that accusation does not mean being guilty of a crime. I know myself very well that I have not committed any crime, so I have to defend myself. So, my message to them all is to do the same thing, if they are really confident that the have not committed crimes or even if they did, they should face this fact and face justice.”

Bahar Abu Garda spoke to Sudan Radio Service from Tripoli, Libya, two days after the hearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
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For the record, here is a copy (cached by Google) of a press release from ICC's website.
Press Release: 17.05.2009

Abu Garda arrived at the premises of the Court
ICC-CPI-20090517-PR413 عربي
Situation: Darfur, Sudan
Case: The Prosecutor v. Bahr Idriss Abu Garda

Abu Garda, suspected of having committed war crimes in Darfur Sudan, has voluntarily arrived in The Netherlands this afternoon in a commercial aircraft. After his arrival Abu Garda was notified by Court officials of the order to appear before the Pre-Trial Chamber I tomorrow at 3 p.m. Following a meeting with his legal counsel he was conducted to a location assigned by the Court for his stay in The Hague at 6.00 p.m.

The location that remains confidential is considered an extension of the Court’s premises. During his stay in the Netherlands Abu Garda has been ordered not to leave the premises of the Court without specific authorisation by the Chamber.

The Registrar of the Court, Mrs Silvana Arbia, welcomed his arrival: “The voluntary appearance of Abu Garda might serve to encourage other suspects currently at large to come before the Court to be heard with all guarantees of a fair trial”.

For the first time, the ICC Judges issued a summons to appear instead of an arrest warrant. The Judges of Pre Trial Chamber I were satisfied that Abu Garda will appear before the Court without the need to arrest him.

This complex operation would not have been possible without the cooperation of several States. “I am very grateful to the authorities of The Netherlands and other countries which have made possible this operation. Within the spirit of the Rome Statute, they have been continuously supportive to the work of the Court,” Mrs Arbia said.

Abu Garda, member of the Zaghawa tribe of Sudan, is charged with three war crimes allegedly committed during an attack carried out on 29 September 2007 against the African Union Mission in Sudan, a peace-keeping mission stationed at the Military Group Site Haskanita, Umm Kadada locality, North Darfur. During this attack twelve AMIS soldiers were allegedly killed and eight others were severely wounded.

“Today our thoughts are with peacekeepers and other workers of humanitarian organisations who provide essential security and help to support millions of people in countries facing armed conflicts,” said the Registrar.

At the suspect’s initial appearance, Judge Cuno Tarfusser (Italy), acting as single judge will inform him of the crimes which he is alleged to have committed and of his rights. After the hearing, Abu Garda is free to leave the country. He will be required to return to The Netherlands to attend a confirmation of charges hearing before trial which will be held within a reasonable time to determine whether or not there are substantial grounds to believe that he committed the crimes charged.

For further information please contact Ms Sonia Robla, Head of Public Information and Documentation Section at +31 (0)70 515 8089 or +31 (0) 6 46 44 87 26 or at
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Update: See Sudan Watch:

Monday, May 18, 2009 - Haskanita: Sudanese rebel leader Bahar Idriss Abu Garda appears at ICC

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



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