Sudan has agreed to hand ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir and others to the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur, a member of Khartoum’s ruling body said Tuesday.
The Hague-based ICC has charged Bashir and three of his former aides with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan’s western region during a devastating conflict from 2003.
“Those who have been indicted by the ICC, they have to go there,” Mohamed Hassan Al-Taishay, a member of the ruling sovereign council, said in a statement.
“One of them is Al-Bashir and (there are) three others,” he later told journalists in the South Sudanese capital of Juba, where a government delegation was meeting rebel groups from Darfur.
“We agreed that we fully supported the ICC and we agreed… that the four criminals have to be handed over,” Taishay said.
“We fully supported the claim that the ICC wanted them and they have to be handed over.”
He did not specify when the decision would be carried out.
Taishay said the Juba talks, still ongoing, focused on justice and reconciliation in Darfur, where the United Nations says about 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the conflict erupted.
Taishay said they had agreed several mechanisms for achieving peace in Darfur, including the establishment of a special court to investigate crimes in the region.
But “first, all those who have been indicted by the ICC should appear before the ICC,” he said.
– ‘Rule based on justice’ –
A member of the rebel delegation in Juba also confirmed the move.
“We have agreed with the sovereign council in Khartoum to rule Sudan based on justice, especially on issues related to the ICC,” Nimir Mohamed Abdurahman told reporters.
The conflict in Darfur, the size of France, erupted when ethnic minority African rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically.
The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the conflict. Bashir has denied the charges.
The court has also indicted three of his former aides, Ahmed Haroon, Abdulrahim Mohamed Hussain and Ali Kushied.
“We cannot achieve justice unless we treat the suffering of the victims because this is a truth that we can’t escape from,” Taishay said.
Sudanese government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih also confirmed that the four would be handed over to the ICC.
“Bashir and others will be presented to the ICC court. This is a government decision,” Salih told AFP.
Bashir was ousted by the army in a palace coup last April after months of protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.
He was arrested following his ouster and has since been sentenced to two years in a detention center on corruption charges.
Anti-Bashir protesters, residents of Darfur and rebel groups from the region have consistently demanded that the ousted ruler be handed over to the ICC.
For years before his toppling and despite the ICC indictments, Bashir had regularly visited regional countries as well as Russia and China.
Days before the outbreak of mass protests against him in December 2018, he visited Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, becoming the first Arab leader to do so since the Syrian conflict began in 2011.
In 2018, Bashir helped broker a tentative peace deal in South Sudan after five years of intense conflict in the world’s newest country, which won independence from Khartoum in 2011.