Legal Nigeria

Sudan says to hand Bashir over for international war crimes trial


(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 31, 2019, Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appears in court in the capital Khartoum to face charges of illegal acquisition and use of foreign funds. – Sudan’s former president, ousted amid a popular pro-democracy uprising last year, went on trial on July 21, 2020 over the military coup that brought him to power more than three decades ago. It is the first time in the modern history of the Arab world that the architect of a coup goes on trial. Bashir, 76, could face the death penalty if convicted over the 1989 Islamist-backed overthrow of the democratically elected government of prime minister Sadek al-Mahdi. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

Sudan will hand longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court along with other officials wanted over the Darfur conflict, Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi said on Wednesday.

Bashir, 77, has been wanted by the ICC for more than a decade over charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Sudanese region.

The “cabinet decided to hand over wanted officials to the ICC,” Mahdi was quoted as saying by state media, without giving a time frame.

The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the Darfur conflict, which erupted in the vast western region in 2003.

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades before being deposed amid popular protests in 2019, is behind bars in Khartoum’s high-security Kober prison.

The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

It issued another warrant for him the next year for genocide, but he openly defied the court by repeatedly travelling abroad.

The decision to hand him over came during a visit to Sudan by ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan.

Sudan’s attorney general Mubarak Mahmoud said on Tuesday in a meeting with Khan that his office was ready to cooperate “with the ICC in all cases especially the victims of the Darfur war in order to bring justice to them”.

Bashir was ousted by the military and detained in April 2009 after four months of mass nationwide protests against his rule after his government tripled the price of bread.

The former strongman was convicted in December 2019 for corruption, and has been on trial in Khartoum since July 2020 for the Islamist-backed 1989 coup which brought him to power.

Amnesty International has previously called for Bashir to be held accountable for “horrific crimes”, referring to the genocide in Darfur.

Vow for justice 
Sudan has been led since August 2019 by a transitional civilian-military administration that has vowed to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under Bashir.

Khartoum signed a peace deal last October with key Darfuri rebel groups, with some of their leaders taking top jobs in government, although violence continues to dog the region.

The Darfur war broke out in 2003 when non-Arab rebels took up arms complaining of systematic discrimination by Bashir’s Arab-dominated government.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the notorious Janjaweed militia, recruited from among the region’s nomadic peoples.

Human rights groups have long accused Bashir and his former aides of using a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

In July, a peacekeeping force completed its withdrawal from the war-ravaged region.

The vast, arid and impoverished western region awash with guns is still reeling with episodic violence marking its rocky transition.

Earlier this month, seven fighters from rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the transitional government were killed in clashes.

Last year, alleged senior Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd al-Rahman, also known by the nom de guerre Ali Kushayb, surrendered to the court.

ICC judges said in July he would be the first suspect to be tried over the Darfur conflict, facing 31 counts including murder, rape and torture.

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