The first trial addressing atrocities in Darfur opens at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday.
This came nearly 20 years after the Sudanese region was beset by widespread violence that first erupted in 2003.
Suspected former Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, murder, rape and torture.
After 13 years on the run, the alleged Janjaweed leader voluntarily surrendered to The Hague-based court in June 2020.
Also known as Ali Kushayb, Abd-Al-Rahman was accused by prosecutors of being a senior commander of thousands of pro-government Janjaweed fighters during the 2003-2004 height of the Darfur conflict. He, however, had denied the charges.
“He is alleged to have implemented the counter-insurgency strategy of the Government of Sudan that also resulted in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur,” the ICC said.
The septuagenarian will be the first person to be tried by the ICC over a conflict that according to the United Nations left about 300,000 people dead and more than two million homeless.
Darfur’s conflict first erupted when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government, complaining about discrimination and a lack of development.
In retaliation, Khartoum mobilised mostly Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed, to crush the revolt, unleashing a wave of violence that caused global outrage. Washington and some activists said it amounted to genocide.