Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 June 2020

Sudan to hand over former president Omar Al Bashir to the ICC, official says

The International Criminal Court in the Hague charged Al Bashir with crimes against humanity and genocide more than a decade ago

Sudanese former President Omar Al Bashir faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity from the International Criminal Court. Reuters
Sudanese former President Omar Al Bashir faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity from the International Criminal Court. Reuters

Khartoum will hand over former Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir to the International Criminal Court for trial on charges of crimes in Darfur.

Mohammed Al Taishy, of the 11-member Sovereignty Council, said on Tuesday the decision to hand Al Bashir to the ICC in The Hague was agreed by both the government and rebel groups.

Mr Al Taishy said both parties believed there could only be real and lasting peace in the western region of Darfur if justice were served.

The conflict in the region broke out in 2003 when its ethnic Africans rose against what they regarded as oppression and discrimination against them by the government in Khartoum.

Al Bashir’s government responded with scorched earth offensives, including aerial bombings that struck rebels and civilians.

It also enlisted local militias in the fight which were said to have made a significant contribution to the crimes committed against civilians.

About 300,000 people were killed in the war and 2.7 million displaced.

Two other Sudanese men were also indicted by the ICC – Abdel-Rahim Hussein, who was interior and defence minister during much of the Darfur conflict, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief and a close Al Bashir aide.

They and the former president are being held in Khartoum.

Mr Al Taishy’s comments were made in a statement by Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, the transitional body of generals and civilians that has operated as a collective presidency since August.

He was speaking in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, where peace negotiations have for months been held between the council and rebel groups.

The rebels have been fighting government troops in the western regions of Nuba Mountains and Darfur, and Blue Nile, south of the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Mr Al Taishy, also the spokesman for the government side in the Juba negotiations, did not mention Al Bashir, 76, by name.

He did not say when Sudan planned to hand over the three men to the ICC. It also remains unclear whether Sudan plans to send Al Bashir to court in The Hague or if they will propose a local alternative, such as the ICC sending a team to Khartoum for a trial.

Al Bashir would refuse to deal with the court because it was “political” and Sudan’s courts could deal with any case, one of his lawyers told Reuters.

The first warrant for his arrest was issued by the ICC in March 2009, and a second in July 2010.

Al Bashir is charged with five counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of genocide in the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2008.

He was the first sitting president to be indicted by the ICC.

Until his removal in April, Al Bashir had been able to travel freely across Africa and the Arab world without fear of arrest.

After 29 years in power, he was removed by the military in April amid a wave of street protests against his rule.

Al Bashir was convicted in December of corruption and now faces a trial over the shooting deaths of protesters during four months of street protests against his rule.

Members of the transitional government had repeatedly said Al Bashir would be tried at home for crimes committed in Darfur.

But none of these officials had given a date for a trial.

Ending Sudan’s long-running wars has taken on urgency because the country’s battered economy could not recover without significant reductions in spending on defence and security.

They account for almost 40 per cent of total expenditure, taking away funds from education and health care.

“We cannot realise justice unless we use justice to heal the wounds,” Mr Al Taishy said.

“We cannot do this unless those indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes are tried before that tribunal. I am saying it very clearly.”

Mr Al Taishy’s comments were confirmed by Reuters in a report with a Khartoum dateline that quoted Information Minister Faisal Saleh.

Updated: February 12, 2020 01:58 PM

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