, THE HAGUE, Jun 17 – Two Sudan rebel leaders surrendered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer to accusations of war crimes in Darfur, the court said.
"Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, both suspected of having committed war crimes in Darfur, Sudan, arrived voluntarily this morning at the International Criminal Court," a statement said.
"Both suspects will stay at the location assigned to them by the court until their first appearance before the chamber" Thursday morning, after which they would be free to leave the Netherlands pending further appearances.
The men face three counts of war crimes allegedly committed in an attack on the Haskanita military base in north Darfur on September 29, 2007, that killed 12 peacekeepers with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
Another eight soldiers were wounded.
The attack was allegedly carried out by fighters of the Sudanese Liberation Army-Unity under the command of Jerbo, and splinter forces of the Justice and Equality Movement led by Banda.
"It is alleged that the attackers, numbering approximately 1,000, were armed with anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers," said the court statement.
The men allegedly destroyed AMIS infrastructure and stole items including refrigerators, computers, cellular phones, vehicles, fuel, ammunition and money.
A pre-trial chamber had found reasonable grounds to believe that Banda and Jerbo were criminally responsible for murder, an intentional attack on peacekeepers, and pillaging, said the statement.
Summonses for the men to appear were issued in August last year, although their existence was not made public.
"This is the culmination of months of efforts to secure the cooperation of Mr Banda and Mr Jerbo," ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a separate statement.
"The rebel commanders will now face justice. Their attack on the Haskanita African Union camp in 2007 caused the death of 12 African Union peacekeepers and worsened the plight of the thousands of civilians they came to help by leaving them without protection."
The court said the men would make an initial appearance on Thursday, when they will be informed of the allegations and of their rights.
A further hearing will be held "within a reasonable time" to confirm the charges against them — a requirement before the case can go to trial.
The case is the fourth before the ICC involving alleged warcrimes in Darfur.
Arrest warrants are outstanding for Sudan\’s President Omar al-Beshir, former government minister Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kosheib.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the main rebel group in Darfur, welcomed the news, in a statement sent to AFP.
"JEM commends and salutes the courage of Jurbo and Banda and the right decision that they have taken in handing over themselves to the ICC," it said.
"Their move will support the cause of justice and accountability."
The movement called on Beshir and Haroun to follow their example.
Beshir rejects the jurisdiction of the ICC, the world\’s only independent, permanent court with authority to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and has refused to hand over his two allies.
ICC judges have turned down a prosecution bid to prosecute another rebel chief, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, over the Haskanita attack, finding insufficient evidence to link him to the killings. He had also appeared before the ICC voluntarily.
The United Nations says more than 300,000 people have been killed since the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003, when minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Sudanese government for a greater share of resources and power.
The Sudanese government puts the death toll at 10,000.