At a time when some have expressed doubts on decisions of the Botswana judiciary, one of the country's judicial exports is raking in valuable experience at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands.
Justice Sanji Monageng is one of the three ICC judges presiding over the high profile case of Bahar Idris Abu Garda, the Sudanese rebel leader, who is alleged to have killed 12 African Union (AU) peacekeepers at Haskinita in Darfur, Sudan.
One of the victims killed on that September 29-30 rebel attack was Major Gaolathe Tiro, a Botswana Defence Force pilot.
Abu Garda faces three counts of war crimes under the provisions of the Rome statute, which created the ICC. He is charged with murder, intentionally directing attacks against a peacekeeping mission and pillaging. He is alleged to have commanded splinter forces of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) during the attack on Haskanita, which involved more than 1,000 rebels.
The ICC prosecutor says that 12 peace-keepers from four African countries Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Botswana were killed during the raid. At least eight others were seriously wounded. The attackers allegedly destroyed equipment and installations and stole vehicles, ammunition, money and other property.
The ICC prosecutor says the case is important because in many of the world's armed conflicts, civilians must rely on international peacekeepers for protection. "The neutrality of peacekeepers, who avoid participation in hostilities unless attacked, permits them to focus on providing impartial protection for the civilian population. Peacekeeper responsibilities in Darfur have included patrols to promote protection of civilians in and around displaced persons camps and villages, investigations
Abu Garda, who voluntarily travelled to The Hague for the trial, has pleaded not guilty.
Under the ICC procedures, the court has to ensure the defendant's right to legal counsel. For Abu Garba, the court has provisionally approved paying for his defence but this may change depending on assessment of his financial situation. His defence lawyer, Karim Khan, has repudiated the charges saying they do not pass muster. He said Abu Garba did not order, abet, support or even participate in the attack. He said the accused had instead condemned the attack. Abu Garda told the ICC that he did not know why he is in the dock. "I did nothing. I came here because I believe in justice and the rule of law," he said. He hopes that his coming to the ICC could help improve the situation in his native Sudan.