International court says 2 men suspected of war crimes in Sudan have surrendered voluntarily

By Toby Sterling, AP
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2 Sudanese war crimes suspects surrender to court

AMSTERDAM — Two men suspected in a deadly 2007 attack against African Union peacekeepers in Darfur have voluntarily surrendered to the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges, the court said Wednesday.

Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus are accused of commanding a 1,000-strong rebel force in the assault Sept. 29, 2007, on an AU base in the troubled region of western Sudan.

Prosecutors say 12 peacekeepers were killed and eight wounded, while a large amount of equipment was destroyed at the Haskanita base in northern Darfur.

Sudan’s government and rebel troops have blamed each other for the attack.

U.N. officials say the war in Darfur has claimed at least 300,000 lives since it began in 2003 through violence, disease and displacement, while some 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The Security Council in 2005 referred the Darfur situation to the international court in The Hague. The case against Banda and Jerbo — made public only Wednesday — is the court’s fourth war crimes investigation in Sudan.

“This is the culmination of months of efforts,” chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo aid.

In February the court affirmed that the Haskanita attack constituted a war crime, but dismissed the prosecution’s case against a third suspect, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, for lack of evidence.

It gave no information on how Banda and Jerbo arrived in the Netherlands, but said no arrest warrants were issued as prosecutors assured the men would appear as summoned in an August 2009 court order.

The two were staying at an undisclosed location until a hearing Thursday at which judges will read the charges against them. Each faces three counts of war crimes for the attack. They will not be required Thursday to enter a plea.

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Banda and Jerbo are criminally responsible” for murder, attacking a peacekeeping operation and pillaging, the court said in a statement.

Moreno-Ocampo commended the Darfur rebels for cooperating with the court, in contrast to the Sudan government which has refused to execute three arrest warrants against officials, including President Omar al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir faces charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding attacks on African tribal settlements and refugee camps in Darfur.

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