SUDAN WATCH: ICC Haskanita: Eyewitness account of Sudanese rebel URF Commander Bahar Idriss Abu Garda in the dock at The Hague

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ICC Haskanita: Eyewitness account of Sudanese rebel URF Commander Bahar Idriss Abu Garda in the dock at The Hague

Before reading the below copied eyewitness account of Sudanese rebel URF Commander Bahar Idriss Abu Garda in the dock at The Hague, please note that the targeting of peacekeepers is a war crime under article 82C1 of the Rome Statute. Excerpt from Sudan Watch's archive:
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.”
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Eyewitness account of Sudanese rebel URF Commander Bahar Idriss Abu Garda in the dock at The Hague

From Alex de Waal's blog Making Sense of Darfur 
By Jan Coebergh, Thursday, October 22, 2009:
Abu Garda in The Hague: A Day At The Court
One could be forgiven for not knowing a Sudanese is in the dock at the International Criminal Court for crimes committed in Darfur. The confirmation of charges hearing against Abu Garda is going on at the moment in the Hague and on Tuesday 21 October, there were about 20 people in the public gallery to watch it in the industrial estate suburb of the Hague where the ICC is based.

We were shown photos of the destruction of the AU base in Haskanita, with Abu Garda sitting there listening intently, and told how looted AU cars were seen in his possession the day after the attack. The session moves slowly with repetitions of long document numbers (did you mean …. 553 or 533?), whether they are public documents or not and working out whether translations have worked between the English, French and Arabic.

The court has not finished a trial yet, so many procedural issues are still being worked out. Yesterday the Victims’ representative was allowed to meet a prosecution witness, when speaking in English in the presence of a court official, but not about the testimony, since the court does not allow witness proofing (in contrast to the ICTY; and painfully clear when a prosecution witness in the Lubanga case said some surprising things and changed his testimony).

There was also a delayed application for a dual role of a prosecution witness to be recognised by the judges as a victim. Although already discussed in the Lubanga case it seems remarkable to me that a prosecution witness needs to give an independent truthful account of events, which could easily conflict with his (perhaps also financial) interest as a victim.

However this is the new and untested field of victim participation at the ICC. No one has been able to answer my question what they would do if say 1 million Darfuris applied to be registered as victims in a case against Bashir. Judges need to approve everyone of them as a victim. I don’t think the court could manage. That would be my strategy as the Sudan Worker’s Union to slow the court down.

However the people of Darfur probably did not expect Abu Garda to be here when the UNSC referred the case to the ICC and when it was announced Kushayb, Haroun and Bashir face arrest. Abu Garda is here of course for a crime not against Darfuris but against AU peacekeepers, a force with which Darfuris had an ambivalent relationship. The victims’ representative of a wounded AU force member said here that he could not have sex with his wife anymore. I am not sure how victims of the attacks on villages with large-scale loss of life and lifestock feel about the severity of this impediment to be recognised at the ICC.

My instinct was that the AU, who send them there, should provide help with the wounded and the families as victims, not the ICC.

Although I am not saying the crimes of an attack against peacekeepers is not important, the events here at the ICC do seem far away from Darfur and the crimes most of its people suffered. However the presence of a Sudanese at the ICC does warrant more attention, not only for the legal detail but also for the people in Darfur.
Click on Haskanita label here below to view related reports.
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UPDATE on Friday 23 October 2009

From Radio Dabanga 23 October 2009:
‘African Union hosted air force captain at Haskanita base in North-Darfur’
THE HAGUE (23 Oct 2009) – A high ranked officer of the Sudanese Air force was moved from the Haskanita base of the African Union peacekeepers the same day the rebels attacked their compound.  They moved the air force captain, called Bashir, after protestors demanded the African Union to protect their civilians against the continues aerial bombing by the Sudan armed Forces in September 2007.  The mob accused the AU to take sides with the government of Sudan by hosting such a high ranked air force officer at their compound.
The African Union became scared after the threats and moved the officer quickly by helicopter to Al Daein in South Darfur. This was explained by an African Union-high military officer who appeared yesterday (Thursday).  He came as a witness for the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 
The attack took the lives of 12 African peacekeepers. The prosecutor accuses Bahr Abu Garda for being primary responsible for the killings considered to be a war crime.  
The Nigerian AU-witness was the second in a row requested by the prosecutor to testify for the court.  He also disclosed that he had a meeting with two leaders of Darfur rebel- factions.   He said he met Abdelaziz Al Assir, at that time part of the Justice and Equality Movement and Mohamed Osman of the Sudan Liberation Movement-Unity in August 2007. The witness explained that he was working as a protection-officer of the African Union. In that meeting, Abdelaziz and Mohamed Osman told him that they were working together and controlling the area.
Update on Friday 23 Oct 2009: Radio Dabanga amended some typos in the original copy of above report and republished it, using a different URL. I have amended the above copy accordingly.

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