May 17, 2009 / 1:26 PM / in 9 years

First Darfur rebel to appear before Hague court-ICC

AMSTERDAM, May 17 (Reuters) - A Darfur rebel accused of killing African Union peacekeepers in 2007 has been ordered to appear at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday and is expected to appear voluntarily, the ICC said on Sunday.

Bahr Idriss Abu Garda will be the first rebel to stand before The Hague-based ICC after the court’s prosecutor accused him and two others of what AU officials called the bloodiest assault on peacekeepers since the Darfur conflict began in 2003.

According to the prosecutor, Abu Garda has shown a willingness to appear before the court and judges therefore decided that issuing an arrest warrant was not necessary, the ICC said in a statement.

In November 2008, chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo requested arrest warrants for three Darfur rebels including Abu Garda. He said the rebels orchestrated the attack at the Haskanita AU camp in September 2007, killing 12 peacekeepers.

Abu Garda, the head of the insurgent United Resistance Front faction, has denied any involvement in the attack and said last November he was prepared to go The Hague. "I will go, no problem," he said. "I know I was not involved".

Charged with three war crimes allegedly committed during the Haskanita attack, Abu Garda has been ordered to appear before the court at 1300 GMT on Monday.

A spokeswoman said if he does not show up on Monday the court may decide to issue an arrest warrant.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC in March in the first indictment against a sitting head of state. He was charged for seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which include murder, rape and torture. [ID:nL4195780]

The peacekeepers, now a joint AU-UN force, have been unable to end fighting that international experts say has killed 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million. There is no sign of a deal between Khartoum and the largely non-Arab Darfur rebels. (Reporting by Catherine Hornby and Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Farah Master)

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