Two Darfur rebels to be tried for peacekeepers' deaths: ICC
Two Darfur rebel leaders will be put on trial for the deaths of 12 African peacekeepers in 2007 in the war-torn western region of Sudan, the International Criminal Court said on Tuesday.
Judges "found substantial grounds to believe that Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo are criminally responsible as co-perpetrators ... for three war crimes," the court said in a statement.
The court confirmed the charges drafted by its chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, and "committed the accused to trial before a trial chamber".
This will be the court's first trial for crimes committed in Sudan's Darfur region.
A date for the trial on charges of violence to life, intentionally directing attacks against peacekeepers and pillaging, will be set later.
In a hearing last December to confirm the charges against the two men, prosecutors accused them of leading an attack on the Haskanita military base in northern Darfur in September 2007, killing 12 African Union peacekeepers.
Prosecutor Essa Faal told the court that Banda and Jerbo were at the head of a convoy of vehicles armed with anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers that opened fire on the base in north Darfur.
About 1,000 assailants took part in the attack targeting peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), during which the base was also looted.
Pre-trial judges "found substantial grounds to believe that the attack was directed to personnel, installations, material, units and vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission ... which were entitled to the protection afforded to civilians and civilian objects," said the statement.
The two accused men, who are not in custody, appeared voluntarily before the court in June last year and urged other war crimes suspects to surrender to justice.
In February 2010, the court ruled that another rebel chief, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, would not face trial for the Haskanita attack due to lack of evidence.
Three other people are wanted for war crimes in Darfur: Sudanese government minister Ahmad Harun, Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, and Sudan's president Omar al-Beshir, who prosecutors accuse of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.
At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.8 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.
The ICC is the world's only independent, permanent court with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
© 2011 AFP