By Millicent Zighe.
Victims of human rights abuses have expressed relief
following Sudan’s decision to hand over former President Omar –Al Bashir to the
International Criminal Court.
The ousted leader is wanted by the Hague based court for war crimes,
genocide and crimes against humanity in Western Darfur. Bashir together with
other senior officials facing same charges have since denied the accusations.
Majority of the victims blame Bashir for the civil war that has claimed
300,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people. The killings of mostly black
Muslims, were carried out by the Janjaweed- an Arab militia group trained by
Bashir to crush opponents. Atrocities attributed to the group include murder,
rape, and torture, looting economic resources and vandalizing property.
In one case documented by Voice of Africa, Mohammed Eisa, currently
living in Kalma Camp, revealed that he was only 12 years old when militias
attacked his village in Eastern Darfur, killing his father, cousins and forcing
the rest of the family to flee to neighbouring countries. He believes ICC can
deliver justice to the victims of genocide and historical repression, not to
mention refugees and displaced people.
Jamal Ibrahim from Mershing in the mountainous Jebel Marra area, harbors
the same sentiments. His sisters were sexually assaulted by Arab militia men in
Darfur soon after conflicts erupted. Like Eisa, he considers the
country’s pledge to deliver Bashir to ICC as a step towards justice for victims
and their families.
“Two of my sisters were raped in front of my eyes by militiamen who
stormed through our village, setting our houses on fire. Bashir and his aides
who committed the crimes in Darfur must be handed over to the ICC if peace is
to be established in the region.” Ibrahim told AFP at Kalma camp.
Rights defenders have continued to commend the country’s top leadership
on its latest achievement. In a statement released by The International
Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), The African Centre for Justice and Peace
Studies (ACJPS) and the Sudan Human Rights Monitor (SHRM), the organisations
called the move a first measure of justice since the outbreak of the conflict
at Darfur in 2002 where victims are yet to receive reparations. Additionally
they urged Sudan sovereign council to follow its announcement with concrete
operational and legal arrangements necessary for the surrender of all suspects.
“Despite feeling abandoned by the international community, victims in
Darfur never stopped fighting to see the day justice triumphs over impunity.
The fight continues, but this is a first step towards recognizing that victims
have a right to justice and reparation for the horrific crimes committed,” said
Mossaad Mohamed Ali, ACJPS Executive Director.
“The people of Sudan have waited far too long to live in a country where the norms of humanrights, democracy and accountability prevail. Addressing the crimes of the past through a transitional justice process is a key ingredient in moving forward towards rebuilding the country on the basis of the rule of law.” added the Secretary General of SHRM Magdi El Na’im.
Nonetheless some Bashir supporters feel handing him to ICC goes against the sovereignty of the country. His lawyer Zain al-Abdeen Mohammed insists that Sudan courts are qualified to try the toppled leader.
“If there’s any accusation against the former president, the trial
should be in Sudan as there’s an independent judiciary system,” he said.
“The alleged crimes in the Darfur conflict, including genocide and
war crimes, are included in Sudanese law. Binding Sudan to the
International Criminal Court is not a legal issue but a political one, and they
will legally resist it,” he said.
Miriam Saleh, another victim of the Darfur conflict disagrees saying,
“Let him be taken to the International Criminal Court because people were
killed, people were burned, and we did not have a place,”
The debate over the best way to prosecute the former rebel leader
continues to rage with Sudanese Professional Association (SPF) the latest to
deem local courts not fit to try him. SPF led the large scale protests in 2019
which resulted to Bashir’s removal from power after 30 years of autocratic rule.
The United Nations referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC in March
2005. Three months later, the court started the first ever investigations for a
non-signatory state. However to date none of the perpetrators have been brought