After thirty years of rule, Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir was recently ousted from power in a military coup amid demonstrations that have been going on for months. His departure raises one question: will he be arrested and prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC)?
The ex-president is currently detained in the Kober maximum security prison in the capital, Khartoum, where many of his political opponents were being kept. The military council that’s now ruling the country said at first that Al-Bashir would be tried in Sudan, but one of its members, Jalaludin Sheikh, said that it would be up to the next civilian government to decide whether Al-Bashir will be handed over to the ICC. The council has promised to hand over power to a civilian government in two years.
“The progress is good, but I feel like they’re doing all of this to stop people from protesting and reaching out to the international media,” Razan Alzain, a Sudanese AUD student, told the MBRSC Post. “They think people will stop protesting, but they literally won’t stop until they get a civilian government.”
In a statement published on Wednesday on its website, the UK-based NGO Amnesty International has called for Al-Bashir’s immediate handover to the ICC.
“His case must not be hurriedly tried in Sudan’s notoriously dysfunctional legal system,” according to Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lake. “An ICC trial is not only vital for the victims of the atrocious crimes that led to his indictment but must constitute a first step in ensuring justice and accountability in the country.”
In 2009, the International Criminal Court released a first arrest warrant against Al-Bashir, and indicted him on five counts of crimes against humanity, and two counts of war crimes against some ethnic tribes from the western Sudanese region of Darfur. A second arrest warrant was released in 2010, this time adding genocide.
No longer a head of state, Al-Bashir is more likely to be arrested, although he continues to have some support. Uganda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Henry Oryem Okello, told Reuters news agency that if he wants to, Al-Bashir will be granted asylum in Uganda, despite the fact that this country is a member of the ICC.
The ICC has so far never condemned a world leader. The first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, in The Hague, Netherlands, was Ivory Coast’s Laurent Gbagbo. Charged with crimes against humanity after disputed elections in 2010, the ex-president was arrested in 2011 and handed over to the court who acquitted him in January 2019. Prosecuted for crimes against humanity, Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta was cleared in 2014.