THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Defense lawyers told the International Criminal Court on Thursday that their client was not a Sudanese militia leader who had participated in war crimes, but rather “a no one” who had no involvement in the ongoing conflict in the nation.
Prosecutors say Ali Mohammed Ali Abdul Rahman Ali is better known as Ali Kushayb, a leader of the Janjaweed militia. He has denied 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in what the defense claims is a case of mistaken identity.
“The man sitting behind me was utterly a no-one,” defense attorney Cyril Laucci told The Hague-based court in his opening presentation.
Laucci says his client was working as a pharmacist at a market in a remote part of the Darfur region of Sudan during the conflict, which began in 2003, leaving some 300,000 people dead and driving 2.7 million from their homes.
Violence erupted when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in the capital, Khartoum. The government responded with a scorched-earth campaign of aerial bombings, and unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, who are accused of mass killings and rapes.
Prosecutors claim the defendant was a senior commander in the Janjaweed militias from 2003-2004, acting as a go-between for the militia and the Sudanese government. According to the indictment, he even participated in some attacks against civilians.
“You will see that he took pride in the power that he thought he exerted and the authority that he had,” ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan told the court when the trial opened in April of last year.
Abdul Rahman surrendered to authorities in the Central African Republic, near the border with Sudan, in 2020. In his first appearance at the ICC