Preliminary consultations were held in Doha under the auspices of the Qatari government and in collaboration with the AU-UN joint chief mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassole, to discuss the prospects of a new peace agreement for Darfur. In February, the government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the main Darfur-based armed opposition groups, signed the "goodwill and confidence building agreement" following a week of negotiations in Doha. The two parties committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The agreement contained provisions to exchange those involved in the conflict who had been captured, including people arrested following the JEM attack on Khartoum in May 2008, as well as ceasing arrests of displaced people and allowing access to humanitarian aid for the displaced. The agreement broke down after the ICC issued the arrest warrant against President Al Bashir, and after the government refused to surrender hundreds of detainees arrested after the 2008 JEM attack on Khartoum.
On 4 March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against President Al Bashir for two counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity. The AU and League of Arab States expressed their support for President Al Bashir and requested the Security Council to defer the case under Article 16 of the Rome Statute of the ICC. The request was not granted.
The warrant against President Al Bashir was the third issued by the ICC relating to Darfur. The Sudanese government refused to co-operate or surrender any of the suspects. Ali Kushayb, one of the former leaders of the Janjaweed, the government allied militia, against whom an arrest warrant was issued by the ICC in 2007, reportedly remained at liberty. Ahmed Haroun, former State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, against whom the ICC also issued an arrest warrant in 2007, was appointed governor of South Kordofan in May.
On 7 May, the ICC's pre-trial chamber issued a sealed summons for Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, the alleged co-perpetrator of three war crimes in the Haskanita attack against peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) in 2007. Bahar Idriss Abu Garda voluntarily appeared before the ICC on 18 May.
In March, the AU formed a panel on Darfur, headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, to investigate ways of securing peace, justice and reconciliation in the region. In October, the panel submitted its report to the AU. Among other recommendations, it called for the creation of a hybrid court comprising Sudanese judges as well as AU-appointed judges from other countries to prosecute the most serious crimes committed in Darfur. The report was subsequently endorsed by the AU's Peace and Security Council.
Armed conflict - Darfur
Despite a reduction in attacks and the return of some displaced people to their home villages, conflict persisted in Darfur. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the fighting, with hundreds of civilians killed.
Attacks on villages led to the displacement of thousands of civilians. Attacks on humanitarian workers and convoys, and on the joint UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) also continued. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in September, three UNAMID staff and seven national humanitarian staff were killed and 12 humanitarian staff and 10 UNAMID staff were wounded in the first eight months of the year. UNAMID still lacked essential equipment and fell short of the pledged strength of 26,000 uniformed troops required to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians.