The International Criminal Court dismissed charges against a Sudanese fighters leader on Monday, ruling against allegations he helped orchestrate the killing of 12 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur in 2007.
The war crimes court threw out the charges against Abu Garda after a pre-trial chamber ruled he could not be held criminally responsible for intentionally directing the attack.
"The chamber is not satisfied that there are substantial grounds to believe that Mr Abu Garda can be held criminally responsible as either a direct or indirect co-perpetrator," the court said in its ruling.
The first Sudanese fighter to appear before the court in The Hague, Abu Garda denied all charges when he voluntarily attended a hearing in October to determine if he should face trial over the attack on the AU peacekeeping base.
He was one of three Sudanese fighters wanted in connection with the attack. The prosecution plans to appeal the ruling, a spokeswoman said.
The ICC has also issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Khartoum said Monday's ruling showed the court was biased against the Sudanese government and was seeking to undermine the peace process.
"This is what is expected from the ICC. The ICC is not hostile against the rebels in Darfur but against the government," Sudanese information ministry official Rabie Abdelati told Reuters.
Darfur's Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) welcomed the ruling.
"The ICC is an independent court and is working according to international standards of justice and we hope this will also encourage Bashir and others to appear before the court," JEM spokesman Ahmed Adam told Reuters from peace talks in Qatar.
Hostilities between government and anti-government groups in Darfur erupted in 2003 and Dafuris complain the AU peacekeepers, now a joint AU-U.N. force, have been unable to protect them while being unable to end the hostilities.
The United Nations has estimated the humanitarian crisis has claimed 300,000 lives, but Khartoum says 9,000 people have died.
ICC deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last year the AU peacekeepers were murdered by combined rebel forces under Abu Garda's control, adding that most of them were executed with gunshots at close range.
Bensouda had alleged that prior to the attack, Abu Garda's forces had just split from JEM and wanted equipment, recognition as a fighter force and an invitation to attend planned peace talks.
Abu Garda, chairman of the United Resistance Front, is not in custody and would only have been detained if the court had decided there was enough evidence for a trial.
ReutersLast Mod: 09 Şubat 2010, 08:32