THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The trial of two Darfur rebels accused of leading a massive machine-gun attack on an African Union peacekeepers' camp in Sudan that left 12 soldiers dead will not start until May 2014, the International Criminal Court said Wednesday.
Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus were charged in August 2009 with violence to life, attacking peacekeepers and pillaging for their alleged involvement in the attack. Prosecutors say 1,000 rebels drove into the peacekeepers' camp in Haskanita, Sudan, on Sept. 29, 2007, firing machine guns and other weapons. They killed 12 peacekeepers, seriously wounded eight and then looted the camp of 17 vehicles, refrigerators, computers, mobile phones, ammunition and money.
The suspects' lawyer, Karim Khan, told a pretrial hearing in 2010 that the prosecution case was riddled with "misconceptions and errors and fallacies." Wednesday's announcement came as the court is still hoping to take into custody Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is charged with genocide and other crimes during the Darfur region's deadly conflict. Despite an international warrant for his arrest, he has travelled to several friendly nations since he was indicted in open defiance of the court, which has no police force to arrest suspects.
Darfur has been riven by strife since 2003, when rebels took up arms against Bashir's government, accusing it of discrimination and neglect; the government is accused of retaliating by unleashing Arab militias on civilians, an allegation it denies. The U.N. estimates 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have been displaced in the conflict.
African Union peacekeepers began patrolling Darfur in 2005 and were later reinforced by the addition of United Nations troops in 2007. The force has been the subject of frequent attacks and remains a target even though violence has tapered off.
While Banda and Jerbo voluntarily surrendered themselves to the court, saying they wanted to clear their names, al-Bashir refuses to recognize its jurisdiction or turn himself in to face justice. Because Banda and Jerbo are cooperating with the court, they have not been taken into custody and will not be jailed during their trial.
Judges said in a written ruling that preparations including ensuring witness protection and training interpreters mean the trial will only start May 5, 2014.