Sudan’s government and rebel groups in Darfur agreed all wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) should appear before the tribunal, a list including ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir, jailed in Khartoum since he was toppled last year, is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Information Minister Faisal Saleh did not specifically name him when announcing the move saying the decision applied to five Sudanese suspects wanted by the ICC over Darfur.
Bashir is a suspect.
Government and the rebel groups reached agreement in South Sudan capital Juba that included “the appearance of those facing arrest warrants before the International Criminal Court”, said Mohamed al-Hassan al-Taishi, a member of Sudan’s sovereign council.
Taishi added both sides agreed to create a Darfur special court to investigate and hear cases including those investigated by the ICC.
That court would try Darfur suspects not indicted by the ICC, said Nimri Mohamed Abd, chief negotiator of Darfur people in Juba. He said Darfur groups and Sudan’s government agreed to “fully co-operate with the International Criminal Court” and timing of the handover would be decided in final negotiations.
Bashir’s lawyer said the ex-president refused to have dealings with the ICC because it was a “political court”.
Bashir said allegations made by the ICC, the world’s first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes, are a Western conspiracy.
A spokesman for the ICC declined to comment. The Hague-based court issued its first arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 – the first for a sitting head of state – and a year later issued a second.
Bashir faces five counts of crimes against humanity for murder, forcible transfer, extermination, torture and rape; two counts of war crimes for attacks against civilians; and three counts of genocide for killings and creating conditions meant to bring about destruction of a targeted group, allegedly committed between 2003 and 2008 in Darfur.
Sudan’s civilian government, running the country under a three-year transition with the military, is seeking peace with rebels in Darfur and other regions which fought Bashir’s government for years.
Darfur rebels and residents long demanded Bashir should be tried. Conflict spread in the impoverished western region in 2003 after mostly non-Arab rebels rose against Khartoum. Government forces and mainly Arab militia mobilised to suppress the revolt were accused of atrocities and genocide.
In Khartoum, where protesters gathered outside the prime minister’s office to call for a faster transition, opinion was split on whether Bashir should be sent to The Hague.
“He should go straight to the criminal court because want peace by any means,” said a young woman who gave her name as Reem. “If the Darfur movements want him to go – no problem. He’s already a war criminal in their view.”
Another protester, Mowafeq Othman, said handing Bashir over would undermine Sudan’s courts. “Don’t hand him over, this would mean Sudan’s judiciary is weak – as long as he is a Sudanese citizen he should be tried here,” he said.
A Sudanese court handed Bashir a first, two-year sentence in December on corruption charges. He also faces trials or investigations over the killing of protesters and his role in the 1989 coup that brought him to power.