ICC issues warrant for Darfur rebel leader's arrest

AFP , Thursday 11 Sep 2014

Abdallah Banda
Darfuri rebel leader Abdallah Banda (Photo: AP)

The International Criminal Court on Thursday issued an arrest warrant against Darfur rebel leader Abdallah Banda, saying it was "unlikely" that he would voluntarily attend his war crimes trial, which was postponed indefinitely.

Banda faces three war crimes charges for his alleged role in an attack on African Union peacekeepers in September 2007 in northern Darfur.

His trial was supposed to start on November 18.

Judges on Thursday said they have had no cooperation from Sudan after asking Khartoum in July to send Banda to the Netherlands for trial.

"The cooperation request had been returned to the court by the Sudanese government without being opened," The Hague-based ICC said in a statement, adding "cooperation is not forthcoming".

"The chamber finds... that a warrant of arrest now appears necessary to ensure Mr Banda's presence at trial," it added.

The judges pointed out even if Banda, 51, wanted to voluntarily come to The Hague "there are no guarantees that in the current circumstances, he will be in an objective position to appear voluntarily."

About 1,000 assailants took part in the massive attack targeting peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) seven years ago.

Armed with rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns the attackers opened fire on the AU's military base at Haskanita in southern Sudan, before looting it.

Twelve peacekeepers died in the ambush.

Banda's co-accused, Saleh Jerbo, 36, who was supposed to accompany him in the dock, has since been killed in fighting, Jerbo's lawyers told the court last year.

Banda last appeared voluntarily before the court in June 2010 where he urged other war crimes suspects to surrender.

Four others are wanted for war crimes in Darfur: Sudanese Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, former Sudanese government minister Ahmad Harun, pro-government Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb and Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, whom prosecutors accuse of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.

Bashir continues to defy an ICC arrest warrant as he travels around the continent, including visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo in February for a summit.

At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and two million people forced to flee their homes since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says.

The government puts the death toll at 10,000 people.

Worsening conflict in Darfur and an influx of people fleeing war in South Sudan helped push to almost seven million the number needing aid in Sudan, the UN said in July.

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