One of the most notorious Sudanese militia leaders in the brutal conflict in Darfur has been arrested in the Central African Republic and handed over to the International criminal court.
Ali Kushayb, who had been on the run for 13 years, surrendered to authorities in a remote corner of northern CAR near the country’s border with Sudan, said a spokesman for the ICC.
CAR attorney general, Eric Didier Tambo, confirmed to the Associated Press that Kushayb had been extradited to The Hague in the Netherlands on Tuesday after being brought to Bangui the day before.
Initially a senior commander in the brutal Janjaweed militia and known as the Colonel of Colonels and Emir of the Mujahidin – and later given a formal rank in the Sudanese Popular Defence Forces – Kushayb was accused of overseeing serious human rights abuses against the civilian population of Darfur, including a campaign of mass rape, murder, and looting.
According to the ICC, Kushayb commanded thousands of fighters to implement the Sudanese government’s scorched earth counter-insurgency strategy against rebels in Darfur.
The charges against him consist of 22 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution, and 28 counts of war crimes, including intentionally attacking a civilian population, rape, and destruction of property.
In the Darfur conflict, rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
The government responded with aerial bombings and unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.
According to the indictment issued against him in 2007, the crimes for which he was being sought were committed between August 2003 and March 2004 and related to attacks on four towns and villages in the west of Darfur. Kushayb had also been the target of an Interpol red notice.
Although he had been briefly arrested and held in Sudan he was released 2007 after the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir declared the ICC did not have jurisdiction over Sudan.
According to reports in local media, Kushayb had been living in in Rahad El Berdi in South Darfur until late February this year when – fearing arrest by Sudan’s transitional government, which took power following the popular uprising that toppled Bashir – he fled over the border into the CAR with several bodyguards.
Bashir is also wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities committed by pro-government forces in Darfur.
Despite a warrant for his address, Bashir travelled abroad freely and it was not until after he was deposed last year that Sudanese authorities agreed to extradite him to The Hague. However, the former president has not yet been turned over to the ICC.
Human Rights Watch welcomed Kushayb’s detention. Elise Keppler, associate director of the NGO’s international justice program said: “Today is a landmark day for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur and their families. The world watched in horror as Sudan’s government carried out brutal attacks on Darfur civilians, killing, raping, burning and looting villages, starting in 2003. But after 13 years, justice has finally caught up with one major fugitive of the crimes.”
Associated Press contributed to this report