Cuno Tarfusser, the court judge, thanked Abu Garda for surrendering.

"The court appreciates very much your volunteer appearance," Tarfusser told Abu Garda at the start of proceedings on Monday. "You have sent out a very good message."

'Most serious attack'

In November 2008, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the court's chief prosecutor, requested arrest warrants for three Darfur rebels, including Abu Garda, over the attack at the Haskanita AU camp that killed 12 soldiers and seriously wounded eight others.

Moreno-Ocampo had described the act as "the most serious attack against peacekeepers in Darfur".

Alongside two other rebel leaders whose names have not been revealed, Abu Garda is accused of commanding about 1,000 men in a convoy of 30 vehicles mounted with heavy weapons to attack the peacekeepers.

Last November Abu Garda said he was prepared to go to The Hague, saying: "I will go, no problem. I know I was not involved".

The rebel leader arrived in the Netherlands on Sunday from Egypt, before being taken to an undisclosed location under court authority.

The UN says more than a million people have been displaced and up to 30,000 people have died in Darfur due to the conflict, but Khartoum says 9,000 people have been killed.