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Sudan’s Bashir should be handed over or stand trial, says ICC prosecutor

Bas Czerwinski, ANP, AFP file picture | Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (right) speaks with a colleague in the ICC courtroom, on August 28, 2018

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday demanded that deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir stand trial for the mass killings perpetrated in Darfur.

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"Now is the time for the people of Sudan to choose law over impunity and ensure that the ICC suspects in the Darfur situation finally face justice in a court of law," prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN security Council.

Bashir, who has been in jail in Sudan since a military coup ended his 30-year rule in April, was indicted by the ICC in 2009 in connection with fighting in the western region of Darfur.

More than 300,000 people have died there and 2.5 million others have been displaced since 2003, according to UN figures.

Bashir appeared in a court in Khartoum on Sunday to hear corruption charges leveled against him. He also faces possible murder charges for the deaths of demonstrators killed during the protests that led to his downfall.

The generals who now rule Sudan have so far ruled out transferring Bashir to the ICC, which accuses him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The ICC prosecutor said that after the tumultuous events of recent months, Sudan "is now at a crossroads with the opportunity to depart from its previous policy of complete non-cooperation."

He urged the country to "embark on a new chapter by signaling a new commitment to accountability for the victims" in Darfur.

"I am ready to engage in dialogue with the authorities in Sudan to ensure that the Darfur suspects face independent and impartial justice, either in a courtroom in The Hague, or in Sudan," Bensouda said.

"Continued impunity is not an option," she said. "The victims of the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court."

The ICC has issued five arrest warrants in connection with the Darfur case. As well as Bashir, two suspects, Abdel Raheem Hussein and Ahmad Harun, have reportedly been arrested in Sudan, Bensouda said.

Several members of the Security Council, most of them European states, have backed Bensouda's calls for Bashir to be brought before the international court and for the new authorities in Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC.

Army ruler calls for ‘unconditional talks’

In Sudan, meanwhile, the country’s army ruler has called on protest leaders to resume talks on the transfer of power without any conditions, as tension between the two sides persists after the bloody dispersal of demonstrators.

"We are calling on the Alliance for Freedom and Change and all political powers to come and sit without any conditions... we need a solution that satisfies all people," General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan told a gathering of medics in a speech broadcast on state television.

His remarks came just over two weeks since armed men in military fatigues broke up a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters.

The ruling generals had vowed on several occasions not to disperse the sit-in.

The dispersal came after multiple rounds of talks between the military council and protest leaders faltered.

"The country has been without a government for three months... the Sudanese people and foreign policy have been affected by the lack of government," Burhan said.

"We don't want the situation to get out of control. We don't want to see another coup," he said.

The ruling generals said last week that "more than one coup attempt had been planned" against the military council, but had been thwarted, with "two groups of officers" taken into custody.

The military council took power after deposing long-time president Omar al-Bashir on April 11, following months of demonstrations against his iron-fisted rule.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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