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Top general confirms Sudan will 'fully cooperate' with ICC over Darfur war crimes

Bashir is currently in a Khartoum prison [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2020

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Doubts still remain over whether Sudan will hand ex-dictator Omar al-Bashir over to the Hague.
Sudan's top general confirmed on Wednesday the government will "fully" cooperate with the International Criminal Court's efforts to prosecute those wanted for war crimes and genocide in connection with the Darfur conflict, according to an international human rights group.

Officials in the Sudanese transitional government announced on Tuesday they had agreed with rebel groups that Sudanese charges with war crimes over the conflict would appear before the court.

But doubts remain over whether former leader Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by the military in April last year, will be extradited to the Hague.

Officials have avoided naming Bashir and statements by government officials have skirted around the issue of a trial outside of Sudan.

Some reports indicate Khartoum may ask the ICC to dispatch a team to Sudan to try Bashir and other indictees, or form a hybrid international-Sudanese court. 

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan's transitional sovereign council, confirmed on Tuesday that the government will "fully" cooperate with the court but may ask for legal proceedings within Sudan.

"We agreed no one is above the law, and that people will be brought to justice, be it in Sudan or outside Sudan with the help of the ICC," Burhan was quoted as saying by Human Rights Watch.

Burhan didn't mention Bashir by name, according to the HRW statement. His comments came during a meeting with Kenneth Roth, HRW's executive director, and Mausi Segun, the group's Africa director Wednesday in Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

Read more: Little hope for change among Sudanese refugees fleeing violence in Darfur

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also confirmed the government's commitment to cooperate with the ICC, HRW said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Sudan's announcement could mean that al-Bashir "will finally face justice for grave international crimes in Darfur".

[Click to enlarge]

Bashir, 76, faces three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for his alleged role in leading the deadly crackdown on a rebel insurgency in Darfur. The indictments were issued in 2009 and 2010, marking the first time the global court had charged a suspect with genocide.

"Victims and their families have waited more than 15 years for justice for widespread atrocities committed in Darfur," said Roth. "Now they may finally see former president al-Bashir and the other ICC suspects in court."

The ICC has indicted two other senior figures in Bashir's regime: Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, interior and defense minister during much of the conflict, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief at the time and later the leader of Bashir's ruling party. Both have been under arrest in Khartoum since Bashir's fall. Also indicted were Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb and a senior Darfur rebel leader, Abdullah Banda, whose whereabouts are not known.

HRW said that transferring the five Sudanese under ICC arrest warrants to the court would be a "major step toward accountability after years of obstruction".

For a decade after his indictment, Bashir confounded the court. He not only was out of reach during his 30 years in power in Khartoum, but he also traveled abroad frequently to visit friendly leaders without fear of arrest.

Bashir has been held in the Kobar prison in the capital Khartoum since his overthrow by the military in April last year. He was sentenced to two years in a social reform facility late last year on charges of corruption.

Under Sudanese law, a person over-70 cannot go to prison. His sentence was also reduced due to old age, prosecutors said. 

He also awaits charges related to the 1989 coup that brought him to power, as well as the killing of protesters over the course of his rule. 

Human Rights Watch demanded the transitional government "urgently invite" ICC officials to Sudan to discuss terms of cooperation and how to move forward with the prosecutions.

Around 300,000 people were killed over the course of the Darfur conflict and more than 2 million displaced, according to the United Nations.

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