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15 years on: ICC prosecutor arrives in Sudan

October 17 - 2020 KHARTOUM / THE HAGUE
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda arrives in Khartoum (Omar Dafallah)
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda arrives in Khartoum (Omar Dafallah)

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague will arrive in Khartoum this evening, in her first visit to Sudan since the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred the situation in Darfur to the court in March 2005.

According to informed sources who spoke to Radio Dabanga, the public prosecutor will meet with the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General tomorrow. She will also meet with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Sovereign Council and the relevant authorities.

Bensouda is coming to Sudan at the invitation of the government, according to the sources.

The investigations of the ICC that started in June 2005 led to the indictment of former Interior Minister Ahmed Haroun, and janjaweed leader Ali ‘Kushayb’ in 2007. In 2009, Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir was indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes, and rebel leader Abdallah Banda, for war crimes. A year later, Al Bashir was also officially accused of genocide in Darfur. Former Defence Minister Abdelrahim Hussein, was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2012.

Kushayb voluntarily surrendered to the court this year and is now in custody in The Hague. Haroun, Al Bashir, and Hussein are imprisoned in Sudan, facing various charges. Banda is considered a fugitive.

A new chapter

In her 31st report to the UN Security Council in June, Bensouda said that she was optimistic that a new chapter of constructive engagement between the ICC and Sudan would take place and that dialogue between her office and the Government of Sudan was inevitable.

In this context, the transitional government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance that signed the peace agreement in Juba affirmed their readiness for full and unlimited cooperation with the ICC.

This includes, among other things, according to the signed Juba Peace Agreement, facilitating the appearance of wanted persons before the ICC and abiding by Security Council Resolution 1593 of 2005, according to which the Darfur case was referred to the court in The Hague.

The government and Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance signed the landmark deal on October 3, pledging to provide easy access for prosecutors and investigators of the ICC to victims, witnesses, and investigation sites.

In this regard, the two parties pledged to allow the ICC cadres to move freely in all roads, water, and airspace of Sudan at all times.

The two parties also pledged to refrain from interfering in the investigations and trials conducted by the International Criminal Court and to ensure the protection and safety of all members of the public prosecution, victims and witnesses.

Darfur

In 2017, the UN reported that nearly one third of Darfur’s population, consisting of 9,241 million people, remain displaced.

The continuing violence against the population in Sudan's western region caused UN chief António Guterres to call for restraint in end July this year, following attacks on a peaceful sit-in in Fata Borno in North Darfur’s Kutum on July 13, that left ten people dead, and later that month on the area of Misterei in West Darfur in which at least 60 people were killed.

On September 30, people from Kutum living in Khartoum staged a vigil in front of the Council of Ministers in protest against continued attacks by militant herders on villages and farms. They submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister and another to the Attorney General, calling on them to “urgently intervene and stop the violence in the area”.

Abdelwahid El Nur, founder and head of the mainstream Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-AW), with strongholds in Jebel Marra in central Darfur, did not join the peace talks in Juba in September last year. The SLM-AW will only join negotiations after security and stability have been realised in Sudan’s conflict-torn western region.

Recently, El Nur proposed to hold an internal dialogue on the peace process in Darfur. Prime Minister Hamdok expects a peace deal with the holdout rebel movements can be reached soon.


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