ICC prosecutor says held talks with Sudan over access

1 min 9Approximate reading time

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Tuesday she discussed with Sudanese officials access for investigators to probe alleged atrocities in Darfur region under ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019, has been wanted by the ICC for nearly a decade on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the western region of Darfur.

"A memorandum of understanding on the modalities of cooperation, technical visits, and immediate access in Sudan by our investigators, amongst other action points, were discussed," Bensouda said.

"We look forward to making timely progress on all of these items," she told a news conference in Khartoum.

Bensouda is heading an ICC delegation that has been in Khartoum since Saturday on a mission to review options of holding Bashir and others accountable for the Darfur conflict, which left hundreds of thousands dead.

The ICC prosecutor hailed cooperation efforts by Sudan's transitional authorities, who seized power after Bashir's ouster, and described her visit to Sudan as "historic".

She said she was looking to launch an "investigation on the ground in Darfur as soon as possible."

Bensouda also voiced hopes for sending a "permanent delegation" to Sudan, and said she discussed the matter with authorities.

Fighting in Darfur erupted in 2003 between African minority rebels, complaining of the region's marginalisation, and government-backed forces.

The United Nations estimates the fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.

Other than Bashir, several of his aides also face accusations of committing atrocities in Darfur, including former South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun and ex-defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.

Both are in custody in Sudan.

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

In June, militia leader Ali Kushayb, who was accused by the ICC of multiple accounts of rape, murder and pillaging, surrendered himself to the court.