Rights group: Leader says Sudan to cooperate fully with ICC

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s leader said Wednesday the government will “fully” cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s efforts to prosecute those wanted for war crimes and genocide in connection with the Darfur conflict, according to an international rights group.

Transitional authorities announced Tuesday they agreed to hand over former autocrat president Omar al-Bashir to The Hague-based court along with other former officials wanted by the ICC.

“We agreed no one is above the law, and that people will be brought to justice, be it in Sudan or outside Sudan with the help of the ICC,” Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, head of the country’s transitional Sovereign Council, was quoted as saying by Human Rights Watch.

Burhan didn’t mention al-Bashir by name, according to the HRW statement. His comments came during a meeting with Kenneth Roth, HRW’s executive director, and Mausi Segun, the group’s Africa director Wednesday in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also confirmed the government’s commitment to cooperate with the ICC, HRW said.

Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the Sovereign Council and a government negotiator, said Tuesday the transitional authorities agreed with rebel groups in Darfur to hand over those wanted by the ICC to face justice before the tribunal.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Sudan’s announcement could mean that al-Bashir “will finally face justice for grave international crimes in Darfur.”

Al-Bashir, 76, faces three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes for his alleged role in leading the deadly crackdown on a rebel insurgency in Darfur. The indictments were issued in 2009 and 2010, marking the first time the global court had charged a suspect with genocide.

“Victims and their families have waited more than 15 years for justice for widespread atrocities committed in Darfur,” said Roth. “Now they may finally see former president al-Bashir and the other ICC suspects in court.”

The ICC has indicted two other senior figures in al-Bashir’s regime: Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein, interior and defense minister during much of the conflict, and Ahmed Haroun, a senior security chief at the time and later the leader of al-Bashir’s ruling party. Both have been under arrest in Khartoum since al-Bashir’s fall. Also indicted were Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb and a senior Darfur rebel leader, Abdullah Banda, whose whereabouts are not known.

HRW said that transferring the five Sudanese under ICC arrest warrants to the court would be a “major step toward accountability after years of obstruction.”

For a decade after his indictment, al-Bashir confounded the court based in The Hague, Netherlands. He not only was out of reach during his 30 years in power in Khartoum, but he also traveled abroad frequently to visit friendly leaders without fear of arrest.

The military overthrew al-Bashir in April 2019 amid massive public protests against his rule, and he has been jailed in Khartoum since then.

Human Rights Watch demanded the transitional government “urgently invite” ICC officials to Sudan to discuss terms of cooperation and how to move forward with the prosecutions.

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