Rights groups want swift hand over of Sudan’s Bashir to ICC

Sudan has agreed to hand over ousted autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and others to the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 February 2020

Rights groups want swift hand over of Sudan’s Bashir to ICC

  • Top Sudanese officials said Tuesday that the country’s new rulers had agreed with rebel groups to send Bashir and three former aides to the ICC
  • The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the conflict

KHARTOUM: Rights groups pushed Wednesday for the swift handover of Omar Al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court after Sudan’s new authorities pledged to bring the ousted strongman to justice for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Top Sudanese officials said Tuesday that the country’s new rulers had agreed with rebel groups to send Bashir and three former aides to The Hague-based court for their role in the conflict in the western Darfur region.
“The Sudanese authorities should translate these words into action and immediately transfer Al-Bashir and other individuals (facing ICC arrest warrants) to The Hague,” Amnesty International acting secretary general Julie Verhaar said.
“Omar Al-Bashir is wanted by the ICC over the murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape of hundreds of thousands of people during the conflict in Darfur.
“A decision to hand him over to the court would be a welcome step toward justice for victims and their families.”
The conflict in Darfur, a region the size of France, erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of economic and political marginalization.
The ICC has charged Bashir with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the conflict.
Bashir, who is detained in Sudan after being convicted of corruption, denies the allegations and evaded arrest for more than a decade, traveling overseas in open defiance of the ICC.
The court has also indicted three of his former aides, Ahmed Haroon, Abdulrahim Mohamed Hussain and Ali Kushied.
Bashir and the three others wanted by the ICC “have to go there,” Mohamed Hassan Al-Taishay, a member of Sudan’s new ruling sovereign council, said on Tuesday.
“We agreed that we fully supported the ICC and we agreed... that the four criminals have to be handed over,” Taishay said in the South Sudanese capital Juba where a government delegation was meeting rebel groups from Darfur.
He did not specify when they would be transferred to The Hague.
Rights groups alleged widespread abuses have taken place in Darfur, where the United Nations says about 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the conflict began.
“Sudanese security forces’ widespread attacks on civilians under Bashir’s campaign of terror, including pervasive sexual violence as a weapon of war, have had devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of their victims,” US-based NGO Physicians for Human Rights said in a statement.
“It is beyond time that his victims and their families receive justice.”
Taishay said that the Juba talks, still ongoing, focused on justice and reconciliation in Darfur.
He said they had agreed several mechanisms for achieving peace, including the establishment of a special court to investigate crimes in the region.
Sudanese government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Salih also said that the four accused would face the ICC.
“Bashir and others will be presented to the ICC court. This is a government decision,” Salih told AFP.
Bashir was ousted by the army in a palace coup last April after months of protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.
He was arrested and later sentenced to two years in a detention center on corruption charges.
Anti-Bashir protesters, residents of Darfur and rebel groups from the region have consistently demanded that the former ruler be handed over to the ICC.
Years of conflict in Darfur and other regions and the secession of South Sudan in 2011 left the country’s economy in a shambles — the key factor for nationwide protests against Bashir last year.
Ten months after his ouster, acute shortages of bread, fuel and foreign currency continue to hamper Sudan’s economic revival.
“It’s been more than an hour I’m standing in a queue for bread,” said government employee Mahasien Ahmed, one of dozens waiting outside a bakery in north Khartoum.
Long queues of vehicles were also seen outside fuel stations across Khartoum.
“Every family is divided these days in a way,” said Hassan Ahmed, a private sector employee waiting to fill his car at a fuel station.
“Some members are standing in a queue for bread, some for fuel and others for cooking gas. We are suffering a lot.”


Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 15 min 28 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”