Sudanese fugitive Ali Kushayb has turned himself in at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after more than 13 years on the run, Associated Press (AP) has reported. Kushayb stands accused of 50 war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and pillage.
No date has yet been set for Kushayb to appear in court. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment.
The fugitive was arrested in the Central African Republic near the border with Sudan, and was extradited to the Netherlands yesterday. He is now being held by the ICC in an undisclosed location, thought to be in The Hague. It remains unclear how long Kushayb had been in the Central African Republic prior to his arrest.
The alleged crimes took place between 2003 and 2004, when Kushayb, according to the ICC prosecutors, was a senior commander in the Janjaweed militia, which supported Sudan's government against rebel groups in Darfur. Rebels in the province launched an insurgency against the government in 2003 over claims that Khartoum discriminated against the region's non-Arab population.
The government responded by unleashing militias, known as the Janjaweed, which led to a spate of violence, a lot of which targeted civilians. As many as 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million displaced as a result of the conflict.
According to AP, the arrest warrant said that Kushayb — aka Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman — "personally participated in some of the attacks against civilians" and "enlisted fighters, armed, funded and provided food and other supplies to the Janjaweed militia under his command."
Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that Ali Kushayb's surrender is "a landmark for justice for victims of atrocities committed across Darfur" and their families. "The world watched in horror as Sudan's government carried around brutal attacks on Darfur civilians, killing, raping, burning and looting in villages, starting in 2003. But after 13 years justice finally caught up with one major suspect."
Former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir is another high-profile suspect wanted for war crimes committed during the Darfur conflict. He has evaded the ICC for more than a decade. However, after Al-Bashir was deposed last year, the authorities in Sudan agreed to extradite him to the Netherlands, although he has not yet been released to the ICC.