Confirmation hearing in the Abu Garda case to open on Monday, in the presence of the suspect
On Monday, 19 October 2009, Pre-Trial Chamber I will open the confirmation hearing in the case of The Prosecutor v. Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, in the presence of the suspect, who has not waived his right to be present at the hearing. According to the schedule adopted by the Chamber, the hearing will continue until 29 October, 2009. Abu Garda will arrive voluntarily in The Netherlands, with enough time before the opening of the hearing to meet with his counsel.
The suspect had appeared voluntarily on 18 May, 2009, in compliance with a summons issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I. It was the first time that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) judges issued a summons to appear rather than a warrant of arrest. Pre-Trial Chamber I had considered that Abu Garda would appear before the Court and that his arrest was not necessary.
“The presence of Abu Garda at the confirmation of charges hearing shows his willingness to co-operate with the court”, stated Ms Silvana Arbia, Court Registrar, today during a press conference held at the ICC headquarters in the presence of the two parties and other participants to the proceedings. The Registrar has welcomed the co-operation of the Dutch authorities under the Headquarters Agreement with the Court, which has made it possible for the suspect to be present, under optimum conditions, both on his initial appearance and now at the confirmation hearing.
Abu Garda is the first suspect to appear before the ICC in the context of the situation in Darfur (Sudan), which was referred to the Court by resolution 1593 of the United Nations Security Council. He is suspected of three war crimes allegedly committed on 29 September, 2007, against the African Union peacekeeping mission in the Sudan: violence to life, in the form of murder, whether committed or attempted; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units, or vehicles involved in a peacekeeping mission; and pillaging.
"The peacekeepers were deployed to serve and protect civilians in Haskanita. Instead, they were murdered. The attack on Haskanita is one of many attacks against peacekeepers in Darfur, but it is the most violent incident. With the killings they had to withdraw, leaving thousands of civilians unprotected. The attack had consequences for the delivery of humanitarian aid as well as safety and security in the region. This cannot go unpunished", said Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo today.
At the confirmation hearing, the Prosecutor must support each charge with sufficient evidence to establish substantial grounds to believe that the suspect committed the crime charged. The evidence will include documentary evidence and testimony from three witnesses. The Defence is entitled to challenge that evidence, to produce other evidence, and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the Prosecutor. It will also be calling a Defence witness to testify before the Chamber.
Defence Counsel, Mr Karim Khan, explained, during the press conference that “the Defence is going to put our focus on testing what we say to be an unsatisfactory, incomplete and partial prosecution investigation”.
The Legal Representatives of the 78 victims authorised to take part in the proceedings will make opening and closing statements explaining their clients’ personal interests in the case, and are entitled to intervene on issues of fact or law which could affect those interests.
During the press conference, Ms Hélène Cissé and Mr Akin Akinbote, legal representatives of African victims participating in this case, expressed the wish of their clients to have justice done and seen to be done, for this case to become a deterrent for belligerents not to attack peacekeeping mission members, and to ensure these members that they genuinely have the benefit of the protection given to them according to international law.
Pre-Trial Chamber I will have 60 days from the close of the confirmation hearing in which to render its decision. It may confirm the charges, wholly or in part, decline to confirm them, or adjourn the hearing and request the Prosecutor to provide further evidence, or to amend the charges. Both parties may seek leave from the Chamber to appeal against its decision.
If the charges are confirmed, and without prejudice to the issue of the suspect’s guilt, which must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt, the case will be transferred to a Trial Chamber, which will conduct the trial phase of the proceedings.
The ICC is a permanent international court whose primary purpose is to help to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, thus contributing to the prevention of such crimes.
For further information please contact Ms Sonia Robla, Head of Public Information and Documentation Section at +31 (0)70 515-8089 or +31 (0) 646448726 or at [email protected]