ICC delegation heading to Sudan to discuss case against al-Bashir

Former president has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Omar al-Bashir
Sudan's overthrown President Omar al-Bashir is seen inside the defendant's cage during his and some of his former allies' trial over the 1989 military coup that brought him to power [File: Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

An International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation is heading to the Sudanese capital to discuss the arrest warrants currently in place in relation to the conflict in the western region of Darfur, including former President Omar al-Bashir.

Al-Bashir, who was being held in jail in Khartoum after being removed by the military in April last year following months-long protests against his rule, is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, in a conflict that began in 2003 and killed an estimated 300,000 people.

Led by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, the delegation arriving on Saturday “will discuss cooperation between the International Criminal Court and Sudan regarding the accused, against whom the court has issued arrest warrants”, a statement from the office of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said.

The delegation would meet senior Sudanese officials during its stay in the country, which will last through October 21.

A spokesman from the ICC prosecutor’s office confirmed to the AFP news agency that “Bensouda and a delegation from her office will be in Khartoum for the next few days to discuss ICC-Sudan cooperation”.

A Sudanese government source told AFP Bensouda would “discuss the extradition” of al-Bashir and others to The Hague-based court.

The ICC accused al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 of masterminding atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region, charges he has previously denied.

Two other former officials wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity in Darfur – Ahmed Haroun and Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein – are also in detention in Khartoum.

In June, Ali Kushayb, the head of the Popular Defence Forces accused of carrying out some of the worst atrocities in Darfur, surrendered to the ICC and is now in custody.

A fifth man wanted by the ICC, rebel leader Abdallah Banda, remains at large.

Sudan’s transitional government has agreed al-Bashir would stand trial before the ICC. However, in a peace deal finalised earlier this month, the government agreed to set up a special court for crimes in Darfur and said al-Bashir should also face that court.

Hamdok told the Financial Times earlier this month that he had spoken with the ICC about the option of trying al-Bashir in Sudan, potentially in a “hybrid court”.

The 76-year-old former president is in custody in Khartoum’s tough Kober prison. He was convicted last December for corruption and is now on trial in Khartoum for the 1989 coup that brought him to power. If convicted, al-Bashir and 27 other co-accused could face the death penalty.

Al-Bashir’s lawyer has repeatedly denounced the charges against the former president as politically motivated.