June 15, 2020 / 10:38 AM / 2 months ago

Sudan war crimes charges are untrue, suspect says

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A Sudanese war crimes suspect said on Monday that charges mentioned on his arrest warrant are untrue, during an initial appearance at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The suspect, who had previously been identified in court documents as having the surname Kushayb, said his preferred name was Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman. He is accused of persecution, murder and rape in the western Sudanese region of Darfur in 2003-2004.

In the initial appearance Abd-Al-Rahman was not asked to enter any plea, but the judge asked whether he had been made aware of the charges against him.

“Yes, I was informed of that but this is untrue,” Abd-Al-Rahman said. “They made me come here, following this, and I hope that I will face justice.”

Abd-Al-Rahman handed himself in to U.N. troops in Central African Republic last week and was sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Because of restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, he followed the hearing via video link from the U.N. detention unit, where he told the judge he was treated well.

According to prosecutors Adb-Al-Rahman was a top commander of pro-government Janjaweed militias that led attacks on towns and villages and is implicated in over 300 murders and the forcing of 40,000 mainly Fur civilians from their homes.

The conflict in Darfur killed an estimated 200,000 people and drove 2.5 million from their homes. The United States said killings there amounted to a genocide. The ICC has not accused Abd-Al-Rahman of that crime.

The judge on Monday set a so-called confirmation of charges hearing on December 7 this year. At that hearing the court will weigh if there is enough evidence to support the prosecution charges and proceed to trial.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Toby Sterling; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean

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