June 16, 2010 / 12:29 PM / in 9 years

Two Darfur rebel leaders to appear at Hague court

* Rebels salute suspects for handing selves in

* Case is fourth involving conflict in Darfur

(Adds JEM comment, detail)

AMSTERDAM, June 16 (Reuters) - Two Sudanese rebel leaders suspected of war crimes in Darfur will appear on Thursday at the International Criminal Court to face questions over the killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur in 2007.

Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus are suspected of committing murder, intentionally directing attacks and pillaging in a September 2007 attack in Haskanita.

Their case is part of the tribunal’s push to try those responsible for the conflict that the United Nations estimates has killed 300,000 since 2003. Khartoum says 10,000 have died.

Bahr Idris Abu Garda, another Sudanese rebel leader who appeared at the court on suspicion of crimes in Haskanita, appeared voluntarily at the court last year but was cleared of charges.

The Hague-based court, established in 2002 to try those responsible for war crimes, had issued a secret summons for Banda and Jerbo a year ago. They will appear voluntarily at the ICC on Thursday, after arriving on Wednesday.

Still at large is Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — the first sitting head of state to face an arrest warrant by the ICC — who has snubbed the court and denied the allegations as part of a Western conspiracy against his government.

China, the African Union and the Arab League have raised concerns about the ICC’s pursuit of Bashir, saying it could destabilise the region, worsen the Darfur conflict and threaten a troubled peace deal between north Sudan and the semi-autonomous south — potentially rich in oil.

Banda was a senior military commander in Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) before he was dismissed during a bitter split among the movement’s governing elite in mid 2007. Banda went on to form a rival faction, the JEM Collective Leadership, with former JEM vice president Abu Garda.

"JEM commends and salutes the courage of Banda and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus and the right decision they took in handing themselves over to the ICC," said Ahmed Hussein Adam, a JEM spokesman. "JEM reiterates its unconditional support to the ICC to serve justice. We urge al-Bashir and Harun to do the same by handing themselves to the ICC."

In addition to the cases involving Banda and Jerbo, Garda and Bashir, the ICC is also seeking the arrest of two senior figures on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC, which has no police force and depends on states signed up to its charter to make arrests, has asked Sudan’s government to arrest Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmad Harun and senior Janjaweed militia commander Ali Kushayb. (Reporting by Reed Stevenson)

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