ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to hand over Darfur genocide accused

Two other senior figures from Al Bashir’s rule also indicted by the court

Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a presser at the Ministry of Justice in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on June 2, 2021. AFP
Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, speaks during a presser at the Ministry of Justice in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on June 2, 2021. AFP

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on Wednesday that victims of war crimes and genocide in the Darfur region want former Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir brought to the court as she urged the country to hand over those accused.

“It is clear that the victims of these crimes also want him [to face] the ICC ... in any discussion that is going to take place, that issue cannot be disregarded," she said.

She urged Sudan to hand over Ahmed Haroun, one of several former regime heavyweights charged by the ICC in connection with events in Darfur, to face trial alongside a fellow former regime figure.

Alongside Al Bashir and Mr Haroun is Ali Muhammad Ali Abd Al Rahman, leader of the notorious Janjaweed militia. Also known as Ali Kushayb, he was charged in 2007, the same year as Mr Haroun.

In 2020 he handed himself in after years on the run and appeared in court in the Hague last month.

"Just last week, we finished the confirmation of charges" against Ali Kushayb, Ms Bensouda said.

The charges are against Mr Kushayb and Mr Haroun, she said. "So the ideal situation is that they are tried together."

The court also indicted rebel leader Abdulla Banda, whose whereabouts is unknown.

Ms Bensouda made the call during a press conference in Khartoum after concluding a landmark visit to Darfur, the first by an ICC prosecutor since the UN asked the court to investigate the conflict there 16 years ago.

The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict.

Ms Bensouda said she was inspired by “the resilience and courage” of the Darfur people.

Al Bashir, who has been in jail in Khartoum since being ousted in April 2019, faces several trials in Sudanese courts related to his three decades of authoritarian rule and was found guilty on several charges already.

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 when African minority rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against Bashir's Arab-dominated regime.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, recruited from among the region's nomadic tribes.

Mr Haroun's arrest warrant lists 22 counts of alleged war crimes and 20 counts of alleged crimes against humanity.

He held several top government positions under Al Bashir, who was toppled by the army amid enormous protests against his iron-fisted rule in April 2019.

Sudan's subsequent transitional administration held talks with the ICC about options for trying the former president and his aides.

Mr Haroun was arrested in the wake of Al Bashir's fall from power and said last month he would prefer to face trial at The Hague rather than in Sudanese courts, which he said were "not be able or willing to ensure justice".

"The judges who are hearing the confirmation of charges should give their decision by the end of July," Ms Bensouda said. "This is the window of opportunity that we have with respect to Haroun."

Ms Bensouda also said on Wednesday she held positive and constructive talks with top Sudanese officials over the transfer of Al Bashir and his aides to The Hague court to face trial.

“As I said also earlier on, the discussions that I have had with all the authorities have been positive ... actually quite constructive and I have not had any of them tell me that they are against the transfer of Ahmed Haroun to the ICC,” Ms Bensouda said.

The former president has been in custody in Khartoum's Kober prison since he was deposed and has been on trial in the Sudanese court system since July last year for the 1989 coup that brought him to power.

"If Sudan is ... saying that they want to try Omar Al Bashir here in Sudan, they also have to demonstrate concretely that this is possible," Ms Bensouda said, without elaborating.

Updated: June 3, 2021 10:55 AM

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