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Hague Court Attacks Prosecution Evidence as 'Weak,' 'Unreliable'

Published on Wednesday 10th February 2010  Hague Court Attacks Prosecution Evidence as 'Weak,' 'Unreliable'

The International Criminal Court has described evidence against a Darfur rebel leader accused of an attack on African Union peacekeepers variously as "weak", "scant" and "unreliable."

A Pre-Trial Chamber of the court made the remarks in a decision in which it refused to sanction the trial of Bahar Idriss Abu Garda on war crimes charges for an attack in which 12 peacekeepers were killed and others injured. In the reasons for its decision, issued in The Hague, the chamber said there was not enough evidence upon which to charge Abu Garda, named as a leader of Darfur's "United Resistance Front".

Abu Garda is alleged to have commanded about 1,000 members of splinter forces of the Justice and Equality Movement in an attack, carried out with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, on the Haskanita base of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) near Umm Kadada, North Darfur, in September 2007.

The chamber said the case was of "sufficient gravity" to warrant charges, but that "the prosecution's allegations that Abu Garda participated in the alleged common plan to attack... [the base] were not supported by sufficient evidence." It described the prosecution's evidence that Abu Garda had taken part in two meetings to plan the attack as "weak and unreliable" in one instance and as "scant and unreliable" in another.

It added: "Considered as a whole, the evidence of the prosecution witnesses from AMIS regarding the purported existence of an armed group under the command and control of Mr. Abu Garda in the area of Haskanita at or around the time of the attack... is not sufficient to support the prosecution's allegations.

"The same evidence appears, rather to point to other individuals acting as commanders of rebel armed groups in the area."

Abu Garda was charged with three war crimes: violence to life, pillaging, and intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission.

The court said in a news release the chamber's decision could be appealed, or the charges reinstated if the prosecutor brought further evidence. The court chamber comprised Judge Sylvia Steiner of Brazil, who presided, Judge Sanji Mmasenono Monageng of Botswana and Judge Cuno Tarfusser of Italy. Their decision was unanimous.

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