Wanted on 51 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, former Janjaweed commander Ali Kushayb is now in the custody of the International Criminal Court. According to an ICC statement, Kushayb voluntarily handed himself over in the Central African Republic.
“Kushayb’s prosecution will be an important step towards justice for Darfur, especially if it exposes the responsibility of those who were giving him orders,” says Ishag Mekki, Chair of the Darfur Victims Organisation for Rehabilitation and Relief (DVORR), whose own sister was murdered in the region. “For survivors, it’s very important that those suspected of giving the orders are held to account. The ICC’s remaining three wanted men are in prison in Khartoum now, including former president Omar Bashir. The Transitional Government needs to be brave enough to do the responsible thing and hand them over to the ICC now. This would make history, and demonstrate concrete commitment to justice for the survivors of genocide in Darfur.”
Interviewed by the Aegis Trust in 2008 for the film ‘Darfur: Waiting for Justice’ (above), survivors of Janjaweed atrocities in Kodoom, Bindisi and Mukjar – three of the towns named in the arrest warrant for Kushayb – provided stark testimony against him.
“He was in front of them on horseback. He was on a cream-coloured horse,” says the survivor from Kodoom. “He is a black man, with a gap in his front teeth and scars on his temple. He said, ‘Finish off this village’.”
“[My father] was elderly, he couldn’t run, so we were trying to get him on a donkey, and we couldn’t so we left him there,” says the Bindisi survivor. “I saw Ali Kosheyb shooting people. He killed my father.”
“I saw Ali Kosheyb right in front of me, even closer than this woman here,” says one of the Mukjar survivors, gesturing towards a woman just out of the frame. “He himself shot Omda Yahya in front of me, and he said, ‘You are the first of the criminals’.”
“Killed and burned”
A survivor from another town, Garsila, recounted a horrific assault led by Kushayb in which worshippers were killed at the town’s mosque and children were among those targeted.
“First they attacked the people who were praying in the mosque,” the survivor states. “Ali Kushayb was there in the flesh beside us, killing people with his men. He himself was there on horseback. They were on their horses, chasing the children and killing them. And those children who were still not awake, they killed them there and burned them.”
“Sixteen years after the Aegis Trust proposed that the systematic killing and persecution of Black African communities in Darfur be referred to the ICC, Kushayb’s detention is a hugely positive development,” says Chief Executive Dr James Smith. “In recognition of the reality that Black lives matter, we urge the Sudanese Government to follow through now on positive indications given in the spring, and hand over Omar Bashir to the ICC without delay – along with Ahmed Harun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein.”