THE HAGUE, Netherlands – International war crimes judges dismissed the case against a Sudanese rebel leader Monday, ruling that prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to put him on trial for the deaths of international peacekeepers.
Bahar Idriss Abu Garda had been accused of planning and participating in an attack on an African Union peace mission in Sudan's Darfur region in 2007 that killed 12 international troops.
Had it gone to trial, the case would have been a milestone in imposing international justice on the brutal Darfur conflict and would have tested international law that attacking noncombatant peace forces is a war crime.
Abu Garda was charged with three war crimes stemming from the assault on the Haskanita military camp, which prompted the African Union to suspend its mission.
The judges of the International Criminal Court said they were not satisfied that the prosecution had a viable case against Abu Garda, and they declined to confirm the charges against him.
They said the case could be reopened if the prosecution provides more evidence.
The ruling was based on a two-week pretrial hearing held in October. Prosecutors claimed Abu Garda conspired with other rebel groups in attacking the peacekeepers to elevate his faction's credibility. They said the victims were shot at close range, calling it an "execution."
Abu Garda denied having anything to do with the attack, and told the court he had denounced it at the time as only serving the interests of the Sudanese government.
The court's prosecutors also have charged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with crimes against humanity for allegedly masterminding attacks on African tribal settlements and refugee camps throughout Darfur.
The court declined prosecutors' request to indict al-Bashir for genocide, but an appeals panel ruled earlier this month that judges made an "error in law" when they refused to indict him on that charge last year.
The lower court will now consider the charge again.
Al-Bashir has defied an arrest warrant and refused to surrender.
U.N. officials say the war, which began in 2003, has claimed at least 300,000 lives from violence, disease and displacement and forced some 2.7 million people from their homes.