Sudan has sent the clearest signal yet that it would hand ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face genocide and war crimes charges.
The decision to send not only al-Bashir but also a few other offenders to the ICC came following the peace talks held in the South Sudanese capital of Juba between rebel groups and the Sudanese government and an 11-member sovereign council.
International media outlets reported on Tuesday that the country’s transitional ruling authorities had agreed to rebels demands calling those wanted by the ICC to be handed over.
“We agreed that everyone who had arrest warrants issued against them will appear before the ICC. I am saying it very clearly,” Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a member of the council and a government negotiator, said without mentioning al-Bashir by name.
No details on any such hand over have yet been revealed. There is also uncertainty about the stance of Sudan’s powerful military authorities who were previously against al-Bashir’s extradition to the Hague.
According to an unnamed member of the council, which includes pro-democracy campaigners and senior soldiers, General Abdel Fattah Burhan, the council’s military head, had given green light to the hand-over.
Mohammed al-Hassan, al-Bashir’s lawyer, told the Associated Press (AP) that the extradition of the toppled leader would have “dire political and security repercussions” for Sudan.
“I hope [General] Burhan keeps his obligation that al-Bashir or any Sudanese won’t be handed over to the ICC. This matter will not happen easily,” said the lawyer by phone.
The dictator, who was ousted by the military and detained in April last year after months of nationwide protests, faces three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes at the ICC which issued two arrest warrants for him in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The crimes were allegedly committed during Sudan’s military campaign during the Darfur conflict between 2003 and 2008.
At the time, rebels from the territory’s ethnic central and sub-Saharan African community staged an insurgency, complaining of oppression by al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.
The regime, mostly with the help of unleashed militias known as the Janjaweed, allegedly committed mass killings and rapes.
According to some figures, as many as 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million were driven from their homes during the conflict.
The case before the ICC against the ex-president remains in the pre-trial stage as he is at large. The ICC does not try individuals unless they are arrested and transferred to the seat of the court in the Hague.
Despite the warrants for arrest by the ICC, al-Bashir had traveled abroad frequently without fear of arrest, visiting friendly leaders, including Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma.
Al-Bashir, 76, also visited Turkey several times. His latest visit was in October 2018 when he was hosted as Erdogan’s official guest at the inauguration ceremony of the new Istanbul airport.
Erdogan also visited the country in 2017 in order to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
Al-Bashir agreed on the Turkish restoration of the Red Sea port of Suakin Island which led to allegations of building a military base there. However, Erdogan denied them at the time, arguing that they would renovate the port to attract Hajj-bound pilgrims to the island and boost tourism.
In his remarks on al-Bashir’s toppling, Erdogan reiterated his rejection against coups but refrained from voicing support for the dictator who ironically came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 by toppling the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Some analysts argue that the ouster of al-Bashir has delivered a severe blow to those who dreamed of a political rule dominated by religion, including Turkey’s Erdogan.
“The removal of al-Bashir puts an end to the three-decade-long political Islam project that proved to be a failure. That Islamist project resulted in several crises in Sudan divided the country and led to civil wars that still have an impact and create agonies,” Ghassan Ibrahim, a political analyst, said at the time of al-Bashir’s toppling.