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.”


Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

Workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine, which is visited by a large number of people, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

  • Six Saudi women recovering in Bahrain as Kingdom warns against travel to Italy and Japan

DUBAI: Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.
The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said the number of infected people there had risen to eight.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah. The new cases were carried by Bahraini and Saudi nationals who arrived at Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai or Sharjah.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said that it was coordinating with Bahraini health officials for the treatment of the Saudi women who had visited Iran. They will remain in Bahrain until they are fully recovered. The Kingdom has advised citizens and residents to avoid traveling to Italy and Japan.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom’s Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over “the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city,” adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE has banned all flights to and from Iran. The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah.
Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases to eight, after earlier raising the number to five. It said the three latest cases involved Kuwaiti citizens just back from Iran, without giving more details. The five previously reported cases were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
Kuwait had halted transport links with Iran over the weekend and said it was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
An Iraqi family of four who returned from a visit to Iran tested positive for the coronavirus, the first Iraqis known to have caught the disease.
The four cases in Kirkuk province brought Iraq’s total to five after it reported its first case on Monday, an Iranian theology student in Najaf. Iraq is deeply concerned about its exposure to the Iranian outbreak, as it has deep cultural and religious ties with its neighbor and typically receives millions of Iranians each year.
The Iraqi government, which has already banned all travel from China and Iran, added Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to its travel ban list on Tuesday. Returning Iraqi citizens are exempt, as are diplomats.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold a “million-man” protest, saying he had decide to forbid the events “for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else.”
“I had called for million-man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how the government’s call on citizens to avoid public gatherings would affect the strength of anti-government protests, and the response of security forces.
A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request and an aviation news website said one passenger was suspected of being infected by coronavirus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast video showing ambulances lined up beside the plane, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul. Turkey shut its borders to Iran on Sunday and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Oman’s Khasab port has suspended the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb. 26.