February 12, 2020 / 4:10 PM / 4 days ago

Head of Sudan ruling council pledges ICC cooperation over Bashir, says right group

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - The head of Sudan’s ruling council has pledged full cooperation with the International Criminal Court, which has an outstanding arrest warrant for ousted president Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and genocide in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said.

FILE PHOTO: Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir sits inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Sudan September 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Bashir, also accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur, has been jailed in Khartoum since he was toppled after mass protests last year. Another four Sudanese suspects are wanted by the ICC on charges related to atrocities in the Darfur region.

Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth said he had met the head of Sudan’s ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“...He was very clear about the government’s willingness to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court,” Roth told Reuters in a phone interview from Khartoum where he had meetings with Burhan and Sudan’s prime minister.

On Tuesday, Sudan’s government and rebel groups in Darfur agreed that all those wanted by the ICC should appear before the tribunal.

The agreement is part of talks between Sudan’s new government and rebels in Darfur and other neglected regions to try to broker a peace agreement after years of conflict.

Some observers noted that while the civilian members of Sudan’s ruling council might back ICC cooperation it was unclear if the military members would. But Roth said Burhan was unconditional in his support for the move.

“We were not sure how the meeting with the general was going to go but he completely reaffirmed what we heard from the other government officials,” Roth said, adding that it still unsure what form cooperation would take.

“He pledged full cooperation. Obviously it’s an open question if that means surrendering Bashir and the other four to The Hague or does that mean cooperating with the ICC to have strong, fair domestic prosecutions?” he said.

The ICC is meant to step in only if states are unwilling or unable to prosecute alleged crimes themselves.

Human Rights Watch warned that while their meetings with Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok were very positive, it was early days yet and “these are just words, not actions”.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; editing by Nick Macfie

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