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ICC drops war crimes charges against Darfur rebel chief

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-08

The International Criminal Court says it will not charge Bahar Idriss Abu Garda (pictured), the leader of Darfur's United Resistance Front, over the killing of 12 peacekeepers in 2007, citing insufficient evidence.

AFP - The International Criminal Court said Monday it will not charge Darfur rebel chief Bahar Idriss Abu Garda over the killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers in 2007.

"The chamber was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that Bahar Idriss Abu Garda could be held criminally responsible," the court said in a statement.

ICC prosecutors had sought a trial for the United Resistance Front leader on three counts of war crimes which included murder and pillaging.

They charged that Abu Garda's fighters killed 12 peacekeepers before looting their camp in a "deliberate attack" on the Haskanita military base in north Darfur on September 29, 2007.

Most of the soldiers, from Botswana, Gambia, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal, were "executed" -- shot at close range, said the prosecutor's office.

Abu Garda, 47, appeared voluntarily before the court for a preliminary hearing last year and said then that he looked forward to "clearing my name".

He was the first person accused of committing war crimes in Darfur to appear before the court.

Alongside two other rebel leaders whose names the prosecutor has not disclosed, Abu Garda was accused of commanding about 1,000 men who carried out the attack in a convoy of 30 vehicles mounted with heavy weapons.

After killing the soldiers, the prosecution says the men ransacked the camp, making off with military hardware and personal possessions like mobile phones, before razing the base, "leaving thousands of civilians unprotected".

At a court appearance in October, Abu Garda denied all the charges against him.

"The prosecution's allegations that Abu Garda participated in the alleged common plan to attack Haskanita were not supported by sufficient evidence," said the ICC ruling.

The United Nations says more than 300,000 people have been killed since the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003, when minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government for a greater share of resources and power.

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

Given a UN mandate, the ICC has to date issued three arrest warrants over the Darfur conflict -- including one in March 2009 for Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir, who rejects the court's jurisdiction.

The ICC is the world's only independent, permanent court with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

 

Date created : 2010-02-08

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