Bahr Idriss Abu Garda
Bahr Idriss Abu Garda was born in Nana, in the North-Darfour region of Sudan. He is a member of the Zaghawa tribe and is believed to be around 40 years old.
From January 2005 until 26 September 2007, Abu Garda held the vice-presidency of the Islamist armed group known as the Justice and Equality Movement (“JEM”), fighting against the pro-government armed groups. On 4 October 2007, he participated, together with others, in the formation of a new armed faction called JEM Collective Leadership (“JEM-CL”).
He is currently the Chairman and General Coordinator of Military Operations of the United Resistance Front.
On 29 September 2007, an attack was carried out by JEM forces in conjunction with troops belonging to other armed forces, against personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS),at the military base of Haskanita, in Umm Kadada locality in North Darfur. About a thousand persons armed with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers allegedly attacked the military base of Haskanita, thereby killing 12 and seriously injured 8 AMIS soldiers. Moreover, it is alleged that AMIS communication installations, dormitories and vehicles were destroyed and that other AMIS material, such as refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, military boots and uniforms, 17 vehicles, fuel, ammunition and money were stolen.
Abu Garda is suspected of having been in charge of the armed groups at the time of the attack against the AMIS forces, jointly with two other military leaders.
According to the Office of the Prosecution of the International Criminal Court, this attack is the most serious attack ever launched against a peacekeeping operation in Darfur.
On 20 November,2008, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) submitted a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC for the issuance of arrest warrants against 3 military leaders suspected of having been involved in the attack on Haskanita military base.
On 20 November 2008, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) submitted a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC for the issuance of arrest warrants against 3 military leaders suspected of having been involved in the attack on Haskanita military base.
After a review of the evidence submitted by the Prosecution, the Pre-Trial Chamber considered that there were reasonable grounds to believe that Abu Garda is criminally responsible for the following three war crimes:
– violence to life, in the form of murder, whether committed or attempted, within the meaning of article 8(2)(c)(i) of the Rome Statute;
– intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission, within the meaning of article 8(2)(e)(iii) of the Rome Statute;
– pillaging, within the meaning of article 8(2)(e)(v) of the Rome Statute.
On 23 February 2009, the Pre-Trial issued a summons ordering Abu Garda to appear before the Court on 18 May 2009. The Court was satisfied that a summons to appear was sufficient to ensure Abu Garda’s appearance, since the latter had previously expressed his willingness to appear.
On 18 May 2009, Abu Garda voluntarily appeared before the Court, in order to be informed of the charges against him, as well as of his rights under the Rome Statute.
On 19 October 2009, the ICC began its confirmation of charges hearing. The hearing ended on 31 October 2009. Abu Garda denied all responsibility in the facts hold against him.
On 8 february, 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I refused to confirm the charges against Abu Garda.
On 23 April, 2010, Pre-Trial Chamber I issued a decision rejecting the Prosecutor’s application to appeal the decision declining to confirm the charges. The decision does not preclude the Prosecution from subsequently requesting confirmation of the charges if such a request is supported by additional evidence.
The Case of Abu Garda constitutes the first time in the history of the International Criminal Court that a suspect decides to appear on a voluntary basis before the Court pursuant to a summons to appear.
According to Article 58 of the Rome Statute, a summons to appear is an order issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber for a person to appear in front the Court on a specific date. In Abu Garda’s case, the Pre-Trial Chamber issued such and order, following the conclusion that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect would voluntarily appear before the Court. In others words, an arrest warrant was not necessary to ensure the appearance of the suspect before the Court.
The summons must be served to the suspect. In case of a failure to appear, the Court may review its decision and issue an arrest warrant.
When issuing a summons, the Pre-Trial Chamber also has a discretionary power to impose conditions restricting liberty, other than detention, bearing in mind the need to preserve the public order and the orderly conduct of the proceedings. In Abu Garda’s case, the Chamber ordered Abu Garda to deliver any statement in a manner which is respectful of the Court and the Host Country and to refrain from:
• discussing issues related to the charges or evidence;
• making any political statements;
• any contacts with the press before the hearing of first appearance.
The conflict in the western Sudanese province of Darfur began in 2003 as tensions surrounding the use of land and water resources exploded between the sedentary tribes (Four, Masalit and Zaghawa, for example) and the nomadic Arab tribes. Two armed rebel groups were created to fight for additional rights for the disadvantaged tribes of African origins. The Sudanese government reacted with massive military operations and by supporting and arming the nomadic Arab militia, the Janjaweed (also known as “Fursan,” “Moujahadeen” and “Bashmerga”) in order to combat these rebels. This led to extremely violent violations of human rights as well as numerous attacks on civilian populations and targets. The report of the United Nations investigative commission on Darfur, published in January 2005, as well as those of numerous NGOs testify to the occurrence of mass executions, mass rapes, the expulsion of the civilian population, the destruction of villages by the Janjaweed, some with the direct support of the Sudanese government, but all with at least its tacit approval. Both sides of the conflict have mainly attacked civilians. It is estimated that 300,000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict and that more than 2.7 millions have been displaced. During 2008, there were more than 315,000 new internally displaced people and refuges in Eastern Chad.
After a number of unsuccessful negotiations, a peace accord was finally signed on May 5, 2006 in Nigeria with the help of the African Union between the Sudanese government and one of the rebel groups, Minni Minnawi’s Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA). Part of the SLA, led by Abdul Wahid, as well as Khalil Ibrahim’s Justice and Equality Movement refused to sign on to the accord at first, but finally ratified it in June 2006.
However, the situation in Darfur quickly unravelled after the signature of the peace treaty: the rebel groups who had not participated in the accord organized themselves into the National Redemption Front (NRF) and attacked an army stronghold in July 2006. The government responded by sending additional troops to the Darfur region in August of the same year. This led to more violent attacks against civilians by both sides.
Even measures taken by the international community have not succeeded in helping the situation. African Union troops stationed in the Sudnan since the end of August 2006 (AMIS) have not been able to stop the massacres and have themselves been under attack. Through resolution 1706 (2006), the United Nations Security Council authorized the transfer of UN troops (UNMIS) to the region. The Sudanese government refused this movement of personnel. By November 2006, African Union and UN troops joined forces in a hybrid mission which is still in Sudan today.
United Nations’ Security Council resolution 1593 (2005) compelled the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes in the Sudan. This was not well receives in Khartoum. In fact, Sudanese authorities have refused to comply with the ICC’s investigtion even following injunctions to do so by this court. Although the Sudan has not ratified the Rome Statute, it is obliged to comply with the ICC because resolution 1593 was adopted under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. The day after the investigation began at the ICC, the Sudanese government created the Special Criminal Court on the Events in Darfur. A Human Rights Watch report published in June 2006 claimed that this parallel special court was created solely to derail the ICC investigation by abusing the principle of complimentarity enshrined in Article 17 of the Rome Statute.