15, February 2020
Sudan’s transitional government appears prepared to hand former President Omar al-Bashir over to the International Criminal Court to be tried for war crimes and genocide allegedly committed during his regime’s long, scorched-earth campaign in the country’s Darfur region. The decision is reportedly part of a potential peace agreement with rebel groups still operating in Darfur. It could be an unexpected boon for the beleaguered ICC, but only if the military members of the transitional government in Khartoum don’t renege on the deal.
The conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when rebels there launched an insurgency against Bashir’s oppressive regime. Bashir relied heavily on pro-government, Arab militias known as the Janjaweed to quash the rebels. The Janjaweed were accused of mass killings of civilians and other atrocities, including rape and torture. In 2009, the ICC indicted Bashir for his alleged role; he faces five counts of crimes against humanity, two counts of war crimes and three counts of genocide.
The transitional government that took power last year, after Bashir was deposed by the military amid Sudan’s popular uprising, has prioritized ending the internal conflicts that had flared up under his regime. During negotiations this week with Darfuri rebels in Juba, South Sudan, Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the transitional authority that is made up of military and civilian leaders, announced that it is prepared to hand over everyone indicted by the ICC for committing atrocities in Darfur. In addition to Bashir, who is currently serving two years in a reform facility after being convicted on corruption charges in December, that includes former Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Muhammad Hussein and a former senior security chief, Ahmed Haroun, who are both currently under arrest in Khartoum.
“We can only achieve justice if we heal the wounds with justice itself,” al-Taishi said. “We cannot escape from confronting that.” He said the government and rebels will also establish a special domestic court for crimes committed in Darfur.
The transitional government’s decision is also significant for the ICC. Bashir flouted his ICC indictment for years, including an infamous 2015 trip to an African Union meeting in Johannesburg. As an ICC signatory, South Africa was compelled to hand him over to the court, but instead, officials there allowed him to leave the country. Bashir’s defiance, along with a series of other setbacks for the ICC that WPR documented last year, contributed to a sense of irrelevancy in The Hague. A long overdue trial of Bashir offers ICC prosecutors an opportunity to deliver international justice and restore the court’s reputation.
If Bashir makes it to The Hague, that is. There is little consensus on anything within the transitional government, fueling concern that its military members could go against their civilian counterparts and quash the arrangement. “Not only do both camps have radically different visions for the future of Sudan, they are sharply divided among themselves,” Richard Downie explained in a briefing in November. Sudan’s top military general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, tried to allay those concerns when he assured a human rights group this week he would “cooperate fully” with the ICC as it attempts to bring Bashir to trial.
Source: World Politics Review