Handover of Al Bashir to ICC: Sudan's transitional authority to meet and approve decision

Al Bashir and a list of others are wanted by the ICC to face charges over their actions in Darfur

Sudan's deposed military ruler Omar Al Bashir looks on from a defendant's cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum. AFP
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Sudan’s transitional administration will meet to endorse a Cabinet decision to hand over suspects accused of war crimes to the International Criminal Court, including former dictator Omar Al Bashir, the country's foreign minister said.

Sarah Al Mahdi did not say when the joint meeting of the Sovereignty Council and Cabinet would take place.

The minister released a statement after meeting ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, who is currently visiting Khartoum.

Al Bashir and others – including former ministers Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, and former leader of the Justice and Equality Movement, Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain – face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The Justice and Equality movement is one of the main rebel groups in Darfur.

Nourain is at large but the others are in detention.

Another Al Bashir ally, Ali Kushayb, surrendered to the ICC in the Central African Republic in June last year.

Mr Khan will return to Sudan next month to collect evidence for Khushayb's case, having asked for the authorities' help in easing the court delegation's efforts, state news agency SUNA reported.

“The Cabinet has agreed to hand over individuals wanted by the International Criminal Court and approved the Rome Statute of the court. Both decisions will be reviewed by the Sovereignty Council and the Cabinet in a joint meeting to ratify the decision to hand them over and approving the statute,” Ms Al Mahdi was quoted in a statement as saying to Mr Khan.

The minister's statement did not represent an immediate step forward in the ICC's decade-long fight to bring Mr Al Bashir to justice. It did not name Al Bashir directly.

In a briefing on Thursday, Mr Khan said he was "optimistic" about progress.

"Sudan knows its obligations under the Rome statute. it knows that Security Council Resolution 53 required all states to cooperate with the ICC and the fact that things are moving in a positive direction are evidenced by my presence here and the signing of a [memorandum of understanding]," he said.

Government spokesman Faisal Mohammad Saleh told The National that Wednesday's statement was a "repetition" of a previously stated position.

"The Cabinet expressed its keenness to hand over the suspects in June last year and this will go under discussion in a joint meeting with the Sovereignty Council," he said.

"Therefore this is not a new statement but a repetition of a position previously announced."

Sudanese officials have spoken in ambivalent terms about handing Al Bashir over to the ICC and have even floated the idea of the international court trying him at home.

But legal experts have said the country would first have to overhaul its penal code to cover the crimes for which he is indicted.

Al Bashir has been in detention since his ouster in April 2019. He was convicted nearly two years ago of corruption and is currently facing separate trials linked to the 1989 military coup he led and the shooting death of protesters in late 2018 and early 2019.

He was indicted by the ICC in 2010 and 2011 for crimes in Darfur, a vast region in western Sudan where a bloody and ruinous insurgency took place in the 2000s.

The UN says 300,000 people died in that conflict and about 2.5 million were displaced.

Analysts say some members of the military faction of the transitional government might be reluctant to hand over those wanted by the ICC.

Updated: August 12, 2021, 3:35 PM