CAIRO - The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Sunday urged Sudan’s transitional government to hand over suspects wanted for war crimes and genocide in the Darfur conflict, the Sudanese official news agency reported.
ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda arrived in Sudan’s western Darfur region on Saturday to meet with authorities and affected communities in the region, the court said. Bensouda said she was inspired by “the resilience and courage” of the Darfur people.
Among those wanted by the international court is former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in jail in Khartoum since his ouster in April 2019 and is facing several trials in Sudanese courts related to his three decades of authoritarian rule.
The conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region broke out when rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community launched an insurgency in 2003, complaining of oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
Al-Bashir’s government responded with a campaign of aerial bombings and raids by militias known as Janjaweed, who stand accused of mass killings and rapes. Up to 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes.
The ICC charged al-Bashir with war crimes and genocide for allegedly masterminding the campaign of attacks in Darfur. Sudanese prosecutors started last year their own investigation into the Darfur conflict.
Also indicted by the court are two other senior figures from al-Bashir’s rule: 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 Hussein and Haroun have been under arrest in Khartoum since the Sudanese military, under pressure from protesters, ousted al-Bashir in April 2019.
The court also indicted rebel leader Abdulla Banda, whose whereabouts is unknown, and Janjaweed leader Ali Kushayb, who was charged last week with crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bensouda and her team met Saturday with Darfur’s Gov. Mini Arko Minawi, who said the prosecutor’s main concern is to hand over those wanted by the court as soon as possible, and speed up the transfer of Haroun since his case is related to that of Kushayb.
In a Sunday meeting with officials in North Darfur province, the ICC prosecutor said they would continue demanding the government hand over all those wanted by the court, SUNA reported.
Sudan’s transitional government, which has promised democratic reforms and is led by a mix of civilian and military leaders, has previously said that war crime suspects including al-Bashir would be tried before the ICC, but the trial venue is a matter for negotiations with The Hague-based court.