KHARTOUM, 11 March 2021 – The Sudanese government has released from prison Musa Hilal, a leader of a militia group accused of atrocity crimes in the western region of Darfur.
The pardon is part of a peace deal which Sudan’s transitional government concluded last October with Darfuri rebel groups, some of which have been included in the government of national unity in Khartoum.
Musa Hilal was a commander of the Janjaweed forces blamed for atrocity crimes that the United States qualified as genocide in Darfur.
He was arrested in 2017 by ex-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after both men fell out.
The former commander is under sanctions by the United Nations for his role in war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.
The mostly Arab Janjaweed militia conducted raids in which it targeted and killed hundreds of thousands of predominantly members of African ethnic groups.
Some 300,000 people were killed and about 2.7 million displaced by the genocidal violence in Darfur.
Little to no light has been shone into the horrors of the Darfur Genocide.
One of the biggest obstacles was not only the continued reign of ex-Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, but also the policy adopted by the African Union to not cooperate with an international warrant for his arrest.
It took his ousting from power in April 2019 for victims to begin to believe again that they may get justice.
In mid-February 2021, a 12-person high-level delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) visited Sudan.
Sudan’s Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari committed, during that visit, to cooperate with officials of the ICC who are investigating the Darfur Genocide.
Last December, the former ICC Prosecutor Bensouda, called on the Sudanese government to allow unimpeded access for the tribunal’s investigations to witnesses, crime scenes and other evidence in the western Darfur region..
Nasredeen Abdulbari promised last month that officials in Khartoum were conducting “internal deliberations” over “the best ways of cooperation” with the ICC.
The genocide in Darfur stemmed from an armed conflict which broke out in the region in 2003.
Rebels from Darfur’s ethnic central and Sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in the capital, Khartoum.
The Janjaweed militia got the backing of the regime in Khartoum to fight the insurgency, leading to mass slaughters of civilians.
The ICC charged al-Bashir with war crimes and genocide, accusing him of masterminding the campaign of attacks in Darfur.
Al-Bashir has been under arrest since the Sudanese military ousted him from power in April 2019 following months of mass street protests.
Former Interior and Defense Minister during the armed conflict, Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief at the time and later the leader of al-Bashir’s ruling party have also been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC.
Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb has been tried before the ICC at The Hague, Netherlands, over multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2004.