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Former Sudanese official, wanted by ICC, tests positive for coronavirus

Haroun was arrested in April last year [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 May, 2020

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Ahmed Haroun, a former state governor and minister, is wanted by the International Criminal Court over Darfur war crimes charges.
A former Sudanese official wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges has contracted the Covid-19 illness, the interior ministry confirmed on Monday, fuelling further speculation of a coronavirus outbreak in the country's Kobar prison.

Ahmed Haroun, former head of the National Congress Party (NCP), fell ill last month and was suspected of contracting the novel coronavirus. While an initial test on 21 April was negative, Haroun tested positive in two later examinations.

The former governor of South Kordofan state was transferred from the capital's Kobar prison to the Khartoum University Hospital, where he is being treated in isolation from other patients, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Haroun will be transferred back to the prison after he has recovered, the ministry added. Reports that the former Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs was put on a ventilator due to severe Covid-19 symptoms have not been confirmed.

Haroun is one of three former Sudanese officials indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the Darfur conflict. 

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

Haroun is accused of coordinating, funding and arming the Janjaweed. The Arab militia allegedly committed genocide, mass rape and other war crimes while leading a counter-insurgency campaign in the country's west.

The former minister and state governor was arrested after the ousting of former dictator Omar Al-Bashir in April last year.

Bashir, also sought by the ICC, has been held in the Kobar prison since his overthrow.

Also wanted by the court are Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, - a former interior minister, minister of defence and governor of Khartoum state - Janjaweed commander Ali Kushayb, and former rebel leader Abdallah Banda.

Unconfirmed reports say Bashir and other detained former officials have been transferred from the Kobar prison to an isolation facility after Haroun's diagnosis.

Bashir's legal defence team has called for the release of the former president and other detainees due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, Information Minister Faisal Saleh announced Sudan had agreed for the ICC indictees to appear before the court.

Officials have not made any moves to transfer Bashir, Haroun and other indictees to the Hague, however.  

Reports indicate that Sudanese transitional authorities seek to have the ICC establish a hybrid court within the country before which the alleged war criminals could appear.

Sudan has reported 678 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 41 deaths. Hashim Ibn Auf, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, is among those who have tested positive. 

Amid a sharp increase in confirmed cases, the transitional government last week imposed a nationwide lockdown.

Speaking to Voice of America, a member of the country's Sovereign Council blamed the increase in cases on citizens violating a travel ban which restricted movement in and out of Khartoum state, on lockdown since last month.

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