January 19, 2019

Abu Garda is in the dock, but he is not the only one under scrutiny

It has been a fascinating week at the ICC with the Confirmation Hearing in the Prosecution’s case against Darfur rebel leader, Abu Garda. The Prosecution is charging him with three counts of war crimes (murder, intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission, and pillaging) with respect to the 2007 attack on the African Union peacekeeping base in Haskanita in which 12 peacekeepers were killed.

In my current attempt to stay focused on drafting “the book” I haven’t been following the proceeding closely enough to reach my own assessment of whether the Prosecution has met the “substantial grounds” standard for the Judges to confirm the charges against Abu Garda and move him to the trial phase. However I let myself take some time out to follow one aspect of the Defense’s case which has broader significance beyond the hearing itself.

One of the Defense’s many arguments (they seem to be covering all possible bases including arguing that Abu Garda was not even at Haskanita), is that by the time of the attack, the AU’s Haskanita base had lost its protected status under international humanitarian law and had become a legitimate military target. In Defense Counsel Karim’s words, “complete ineptitude and recklessness robbed the base of the protection it should have had.” Part of his argument is that due to “indifference, incompetence, lack of resources, collusion with the GOS, or cynical misuse by the GOS of AMIS” the GoS representative at the AU base at Haskanita was using its facilities to contribute to the military activities of the Sudanese government, and hence the base lost its protected status under international law.In a damming indictment of the international community, Karim told the court this week that peacekeepers deserve “proper mandates, proper resources” – neither of which, Karim asserts, the AU peacekeeping mission in Haskanita had.

There have been countless moments during the course of my research that I have felt like “the international community” should indeed be in the dock for essentially palming off civilian protection in Darfur to an AU force that was never in a position to do what civilians needed it to do. And while the ICC is a forum for pursuing individual criminal responsibility, and not for sweeping claims about international responsibility, this case may become an instance where the two spheres come into contact.

The Closing Statements are being presented in The Hague today. After that we have 60 days to wait and see what the Judges say.


  1. […] Concerning another issue of international justice, the Confirmation Hearing of Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, a Darfuri rebel leader, continued this week at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He is being tried for attacking an African Union peacekeeping base in 2007.  His defense lawyer is making  the case that the AU base by that point in time had lost its protected status under international humanitarian law and had become a legitimate military target. Bec Hamilton is also following the case. […]

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