ICC prosecutor urges Sudan to hand over Haroun for Darfur crimes

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The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor pressed Sudan Wednesday to hand over Ahmed Haroun, accused of war crimes in Darfur, to face trial alongside a fellow ex-regime figure.

Fatou Bensouda made the call during a press conference in Khartoum after concluding a landmark visit to Darfur, the first by an ICC prosecutor since the UN tasked the court to probe the conflict there 16 years ago.

The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million were displaced in the conflict.

Haroun is one of several former regime heavyweights charged by the ICC in connection with Darfur, including ex-president Omar al-Bashir, who is indicted for crimes including genocide, and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman, leader of the notorious Janjaweed militia.

Abd-Al-Rahman, also known as Ali Kushayb, was charged in 2007, the same year as Haroun. He handed himself in last year after years on the run and appeared in court in the Hague last month.

“Just last week, we finished the confirmation of charges” against Ali Kushayb, Bensouda told reporters Wednesday.

“And these charges were against both himself and Ahmed Haroun,” she added. “So the ideal situation is that they are tried together.”

Fighting broke out in Darfur in 2003 when African minority rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated regime.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the Janjaweed, recruited from among the region’s nomadic tribes.

Haroun’s arrest warrant lists 22 counts of alleged war crimes and 20 counts of alleged crimes against humanity.

He held several top government positions under Bashir, who was toppled by the army amid enormous protests against his iron-fisted rule in April 2019.

Sudan’s subsequent transitional administration has been in talks with the ICC about options for trying the former president and his aides.

Haroun was arrested in the wake of Bashir’s fall from power and said last month he would prefer to face trial at the Hague rather than in Sudanese courts, which he said were “not be able or willing to ensure justice”.

“The judges who are hearing the confirmation of charges should give their decision by the end of July,” Bensouda said. “This is the window of opportunity that we have with respect to Haroun.”

Bensouda also said on Wednesday she held “positive” and “constructive” talks with top Sudanese officials over the transfer of Bashir and his aides to the Hague-based court to face trial.

The ex-president has been in custody in Khartoum’s Kober prison since he was deposed and has been on trial in the Sudanese court system since July last year for the Islamist-backed 1989 coup which brought him to power.

“If Sudan is… saying that they want to try Omar al-Bashir here in Sudan, they also have to demonstrate concretely that this is possible,” Bensouda said, without elaborating.