London, Feb. 11, 2020 (AltAfrica)-Sudan is to hand over the former dictator Omar al-Bashir to the international criminal court in The Hague to face trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, the country’s military council has said.
The decision is a dramatic reversal of the council’s previous position, and will encourage defenders of the beleaguered institution. However the exact details of how and when Bashir might be handed over are unclear, and apparently dependent on a comprehensive peace deal between authorities and rebels.
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Sudan’s ousted president Omar al-Bashir is escorted into a vehicle as he returns to prison after appearing before prosecutors over charges of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency (AFP Photo/Yasuyoshi CHIBA) Bashir has been in prison in Khartoum since being forced from power in April, when security forces withdrew their support for his repressive regime after months of protests.
In December the former leader was sentenced to two years in a reform facility for corruption – a sentence dismissed as derisory by victims of his brutal 29-year rule.
Bashir denies all the allegations against him. One of his lawyers told Reuters on Tuesday that Bashir would refuse to deal with ICC as it is a “political court” and that Sudan’s judiciary would be able to deal with any case against him.
The ICC has struggled to secure convictions of high-profile wrongdoers in recent years, and the decision will come as a boost to prosecutors.
Bashir is accused by the ICC of criminal responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide after the killing, maiming and torture of hundreds of thousands of people in Darfur.
The UN estimates 200,000 to 400,000 people died in the conflict and a further 2.7 million were displaced. Militia formed and directed by Bashir are blamed for the worst atrocities.
Sudan is ruled by a government and an 11-member sovereign council, which includes pro-democracy campaigners and senior soldiers. These transitional authorities are due to hold power for just over three years before elections.
Few observers expected that Bashir would be handed over to the Hague. The decision was made during peace talks between Khartoum and rebel groups in Darfur held in the South Sudanese capital, Juba.
Representatives of the Sudanese sovereign council agreed to a rebel demand those wanted by the ICC would be presented to the tribunal, the information minister, Faisal Saleh, said.
The move comes amid significant diplomatic activity focused on Sudan as international powers scramble to secure influence in the strategically important state.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the most senior figure in the power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilian parties that began last August, has been invited to Washington.
Last week the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres called for the country to be removed from a US list of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism. The listing has impeded badly needed international financial assistance and commercial activity in Sudan.
US officials described the removal of Sudan from the list as “not flipping a light switch”.
“It is definitely a process. Everybody wants it to move forward as quickly as possible,” one said during a conference call with reporters on Monday.
“Absolutely, the United States of America continues to support the transition process and the civilian-led transitional government.“
Burhan also met the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in Uganda earlier this month but was forced to deny reports of an imminent normalisation of relations between the two countries.
In December, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, told the UN security council that, she had been “emboldened by positive political changes over the last six months, since the overthrow of former dictator Omar al-Bashir and said she hoped hope that “Sudan will honour its commitments to deliver justice” for the victims of civil conflict in Darfur.
Civilian authorities in Sudan are due to take the lead for the final 18 months of the 39-month transition.
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