First Darfur trial opens before the ICC

Photo credit ICC-CPI; Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman during the opening of the trial, 5 April 2022
Coalition for the ICC

On 5 April 2022 the trial of Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (or “Ali Kushayb”) opened before Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC), composed of Presiding Judge Joanna Korner,  Judge Reine Alapini-Gansou and Judge Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor. Abd-Al-Rahman faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Darfur, Sudan, between August 2003 and April 2004. Abd-Al-Rahman is alleged to have been the principal commander of the Janjaweed militias, active in Darfur. 

The Judges have authorised 142 victims to participate in the trial through their legal representatives.



“Victims and affected communities in Darfur have been waiting for nearly two decades for justice,” said the Coalition for the ICC’s Acting Convenor, Melinda Reed. “As the trial opens, ICC states parties, the UN Security Council, and other international partners should urge Sudanese authorities to surrender all those wanted by the Court so justice can move forward.” 


Read on for what our member organizations are saying about the opening of the trial:

“Ali Kushayb’s trial has renewed a long-lost sense of hope for the affected communities of Darfur,” said the Darfur Women Action Group. “The beginning of his trial represents a significant milestone in our fight for justice, as victims of the Darfur genocide will be heard in a court for the first time. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a long way to go. He is only one of the many perpetrators the ICC must pursue cases against in order to bring justice to the victims of the Darfur genocide.”

"April 5, 2022 is a momentous day for victims and survivors in Darfur who never stopped fighting to see the day the cycle of impunity is broken,” said Mohamed Ali Mossaad, Executive Director of the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. “We hope the trial against Abd-Al-Rahman will shed light on his responsibility for the horrendous crimes, in particular sexual crimes, committed by him and the government-backed Janjaweed militias under his command."

"This is an incredibly significant moment in the history of the Darfurians and the Sudanese people," said Mustafa Hussein, Executive Director of the Zarga Organization for Rural Development. "ZORD is very much welcoming the appearance of Kushayb before the ICC. The significance of this trial is that it sends an important message to all perpetrators of atrocities  including those in highest positions of power that they will be held accountable and justice shall be done."

"This trial, which opens almost 20 years after the alleged acts were committed, sends a strong signal to all military and militia leaders who sow terror and desolation in Africa. It is an opportunity to bring justice to all the victims of the Darfur crisis," stated the African Francophone Coalitions for the International Criminal Court, who also issued a statement in French.

“Kushayb’s trial is a long-awaited chance for victims and communities terrorized by the notorious Janjaweed militia and government forces in Darfur to see a leader held to account,” said Elise Keppler, Associate International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch. “In the face of steep odds and no other credible options, the ICC is serving as the crucial court of last resort for Darfuris.”

For additional information, read questions and answers on the Abd-Al-Rahman case published by Human Rights Watch.



While Sudan is not a State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC can still exercise jurisdiction over crimes listed in the Rome Statute and committed on the territory of Darfur, Sudan, or by its nationals from 1 July 2002 onwards following a referral by the United Nations Security Council in 2005.

Abd-Al-Rahman is the first individual to be put on trial before the ICC for serious crimes allegedly committed in Darfur, Sudan. The ICC issued an arrest warrant against Abd-Al-Rahman on 27 April 2007. A second arrest warrant was issued under seal in 2018 and made public in 2020.

Abd-Al-Rahman was transferred to the custody of the Court on 9 June 2020, after his voluntary surrender to the authorities of the Central African Republic. The initial appearance of Abd-Al-Rahman before the ICC took place on 15 June 2020.

On 9 July 2020 Pre-Trial Chamber II of the ICC confirmed charges on 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  

Other individuals wanted on charges arising out of the Court’s Darfur investigation remain at large. They are the former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, the former State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and former Governor of Southern Kordofan State Ahmed Haroun, the former Defense Minister Abdulraheem Mohammed Hussein and the former leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur, Abdallah Banda Abakaer.

Al Bashir, Haroun and Hussein are currently held in detention in Sudan. Sudanese and global civil society has called for their surrender to the International Criminal Court.