13 Oct “Sudanese Arrest Militia Leader”
That’s the headline of today’s New York Times article about Ali Kushayb, the janjaweed militia leader who has been indicted by the ICC. According to the article, the “[t]he move is widely being interpreted as a way for Sudan to improve its image abroad and attempt to head off the possible genocide prosecution of the country’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.”
Honestly, could the newspaper engage in some actual reporting? As Darfur watchers know — and as I was able to find in five seconds by searching for “Kushayb arrested months ago” using The Google — the Sudanese government has been claiming to have Kushayb in custody for nearly two years:
Khartoum had long claimed that Kushayb was in custody since November 2006 for investigations into allegations of violations he committed during the peak of the Darfur conflict in 2004.
Sudan’s former Justice Minister Mohamed Ali al-Mardi told a news conference in Khartoum in February 2007 that “Ali Kushayb, along with two other individuals, was sent for trial. He was detained as a suspect, questioned, his statements were evaluated and witness statements recorded, and then the decision was taken to refer him to court”.
But in March 2007 Kushayb’s trial was delayed when the defendants filed an appeal with the Justice ministry after which Abu-Zeid told reporters that Kushayb’s appeal was denied that there is “sufficient evidence to proceed with the case”.
Shortly afterwards the Sudanese justice ministry ordered a ban on publishing reports or details relating to criminal cases on Darfur conflict and many observers at the time voiced skepticism over Khartoum’s seriousness to try perpetrators of crimes in the war ravaged region.
In October 2007 Sudan’s former foreign minister Lam Akol told the pro-government daily Al-Rayaam from New York that Kushayb was freed “due to lack of incriminating evidence against him”.
However Al-Mardi issued a quick denial to the Al-Rayaam report describing it as “false” without directly commenting on Akol’s statements.
The former Justice Minister was asked again by Al-Rayaam last November on the whereabouts of Kushayb and he reiterated that the militia leader was “never released” before saying that he refrained from commenting on the issue “because it is under investigation”.
In April the spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Khalid Al-Mubarak was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) as saying that Haroun and Kushayb were not prosecuted “because there is no evidence against them”.
Again in June Amin Hassan Omar, a leading figure in the National Congress Party (NCP) and a state minister also confirmed Kushayb’s release.
At best, then, the Sudanese government has re-arrested someone it previously “cleared” of any wrongdoing and released. At worst, this is simply another pathetic attempt to dupe the international community into believing that the government is genuinely interested in prosecuting those responsible for the atrocities in Darfur. Alas, with coverage like that offered by the New York Times, the ploy may well succeed.