Sudan Inches Closer to Handing Omar al-Bashir to I.C.C.
NAIROBI, Kenya – The Sudanese government has agreed to hand over Omar Hassan al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court, officials said, marking the highest pledge in years to send the ousted dictator to face genocide charges and war crimes and demand a measure of justice for the victims of his 30-year reign.
Mr. al-Bashir, 77, was ousted two years ago and has been in jail since then. He has been wanted by the international tribunal in The Hague since 2009 for atrocities committed by his government in the western region of Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, according to the reports. United Nations.
The tribunal has urged Sudanese officials in recent months to hand over Mr. al-Bashir and other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur. If transferred, it would mark a major milestone in the nascent Sudanese government’s efforts to respond to victims’ demands for justice, hold perpetrators to account and end decades of impunity for perpetrators. atrocities.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam al-Sadiq al-Mahdi on Wednesday said the cabinet agreed to transfer al-Bashir after meeting with the chief prosecutor of the International Court, Karim Khan, the agency said. Sudan public press release.
Officials have not given a deadline for Mr. al-Bashir’s transfer and Mr. Khan is expected to address the issue at a press conference on Thursday. The civilian cabinet’s decision is not final and will likely require approval from Sudan’s Sovereignty Council – a 14-member body formed in 2019 to guide the country through a transition to democracy, which includes members of the military. previously allied with M. el-Béchir.
On Wednesday, the US State Department welcomed the decision to transfer Mr. al-Bashir. Its spokesperson, Ned Price, urged the cabinet and the council to work together “to finalize and execute this decision”.
Khan arrived in Sudan this week and met with officials including the Attorney General, members of the Sovereignty Council and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in a bid to improve cooperation and seek justice for the victims of the war from Darfur.
The foreign minister’s announcement on Wednesday came days after the cabinet voted to ratify the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, bringing the North-East African state closer to full court membership and increasing the likelihood that Mr. al-Bashir will stand trial.
Mr. al-Bashir, an army commander at the time, came to power in Sudan in 1989 after toppling the democratically elected government. For the next three decades, he ruled with an iron fist, overseeing a government that restricted media freedoms, curtailed human rights, crippled economic growth, and waged war on its own people.
Mr. al-Bashir has waged a war with the south of the country in an attempt to keep it under control. But as part of a peace accord signed in Kenya in 2005, he accepted a referendum that would decide the future of the south as an independent nation.
It became a reality in January 2011 when a majority voted in favor of secession – dismantling Africa’s largest country to form the world’s youngest state.
But even as he let South Sudan go, al-Bashir continued a vicious campaign in the western region of Darfur, where rebels took up arms after accusing his government of political and economic marginalization.
The enormous death toll, displacement and human suffering prompted the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against him in 2009.
The court charged him with committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, including murder, torture and rape – allegations he has dismissed over the years.
Despite the international mandate, Mr. al-Bashir continued to travel while still in power in countries like Egypt and South Africa. The international tribunal does not try the suspects until they are arrested and sent to The Hague, which means that the case against Mr al-Bashir remains at the preliminary stage.
In December 2018, smoldering anti-Bashir sentiment in Sudan intensified when protests erupted against soaring bread and fuel prices. As protests escalated, al-Bashir declared a state of emergency and postponed constitutional amendments that would have secured him another term in 2020.
But in early April, the military ousted and arrested him, ending his three decades of autocratic rule.
Since then, Sudan has been ruled by a transitional government that introduced broader personal and political freedoms, helped remove the country from the list of US sponsors of terrorism, signed a peace deal with rebel groups in Darfur and helped get debt relief. creditors.
Sudanese courts found Mr. al-Bashir guilty of money laundering and corruption in late 2019 and sentenced him to two years in detention. He still faces charges related to the 1989 coup, which could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted.
Sudanese authorities have previously suggested that the former strongman could be sent to The Hague.
Last year, a ruling council member said al-Bashir could be extradited – a move many Sudanese observers doubted would happen given the lingering discord between the military and civilian arms of the government and the proximity of some of the military leaders in the council was to Mr. al-Bashir.
But in recent days, civilian and military leaders have signaled their readiness to support and cooperate with the court. These assurances, according to state media, even came from General Mohamed Hamdan, also known as Hemeti, the first vice-president of the transitional council. He was a close ally of Mr. al-Bashir and led a paramilitary force accused of committing widespread atrocities in Darfur.
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