By John L. Fossum
The first war crimes case arising from Darfur, Sudan has completed the confirmation of charges hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The case against Bahr Idriss Abu Garda was heard in the ICC from October 26th through October 30th. The court will now rule on whether or not there is sufficient evidence to have a trial for Abu Garda.
Abu Garda was the Chairman and General Coordinator of Military Operations for the United Resistance Front, he appeared voluntarily in The Hague in May of this year. Abu Garda is accused of three counts of war crimes, murder, attacking peacekeepers and pillaging as defined by the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC.
The ICC has also indicted the current president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, and issued a warrant of arrest for Ahmad Harun, a former Interior Minister and Humanitarian affairs minister. The ICC has also issue an arrest warrant for Ali Kushayb, the alleged leader of the Janjaweed militia. All three are not yet in the custody of the court or have refused to appear voluntarily before the court.
There may also be indictments that have not been unsealed from Sudan. The situation was referred to the ICC by the United Nations Security Council, because of the concern of an ongoing genocide. The ICC also has ongoing cases involving countries bordering Sudan, the Democratic Republic of The Congo, the Central African Republic and Uganda. Those three situations were referred by member states of the ICC. There are defendants in custody and awaiting trial from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from the Central African Republic. All the accused from Uganda are currently at large.
The ICC was developed to offer the international community a permanent court for the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC is unique compared to all other international tribunals in that it allows the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity to seek reparations and even social services through the court. Victims may also have an opportunity to participate in the case and provide submissions for the court to consider in the cases.
Victims may participate anonymously and are eligible for protection from the court in addition to support and services. Victims who wish to seek reparations are eligible for the appointment of counsel at court expense. The court has developed a list of eligible counsel who may be appointed to represent victims. The counsel may assist the victims in preparing their applications and in seeking and advocating for the support they are eligible to receive. The process is bureaucratic and long, but can result in significant benefits to the victims at no cost to them.
John L. Fossum is an attorney with Fossum Law Office, LLC, and was admitted to practice before the ICC in 2005. He is also admitted to practice before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He is one of fewer than 40 lawyers in the United States admitted to practice before the ICC. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 507-645-0002.