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Surprise Deal Is Bad News for a Brutal Former Dictator

Omar al-Bashir of Sudan may be handed over to a world court to face war crimes charges
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2020 10:40 AM CST

(Newser) – A surprise development in Africa means an autocrat who ruled for decades might be handed over to a world court to face war crimes charges. Coverage:

  • Who: Omar al-Bashir, 76, ruled Sudan from 1989 until his ouster last year, and he did so with an "iron fist," per the BBC.
  • Charges: For years, the International Criminal Court has sought Bashir for alleged atrocities committed against rebels and their supporters in the Darfur region of his country in 2003. The AP reports that up 300,000 people were killed and nearly 3 million driven from their homes. The ICC charged Bashir with genocide in 2009, but he has never been arrested. In all, he faces three counts of genocide, five of crimes against humanity, and two of war crimes.

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  • The deal: On Tuesday, the current government of Sudan struck a deal with rebel groups from Darfur that calls for anyone sought by the ICC to be turned over to the court, reports the Guardian. The deal doesn't mention Bashir by name, but "we agreed that everyone who had arrest warrants issued against them will appear before the ICC," said a government spokesman, per the BBC. "I'm saying it very clearly."
  • In detention: Last year, the 76-year-old Bashir was sentenced to two years in what the BBC calls a "social reform facility," a penalty critics called too light. Sudanese law prohibits jail sentences for those over 70. In Sudan, prosecutors also accused him of having protesters killed during the demonstrations that ultimately toppled him.
  • When? So when might Bashir be handed over? That remains very much unclear. The Guardian notes the deal appears to hinge on the success of the new pact between the government and rebels. A Bashir attorney said the former ruler considers the ICC a "political court" and wouldn't cooperate, reports Reuters.
  • The history: The Darfur conflict sprang up when "when ethnic minority African rebels took up arms against Bashir's then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically," per France 24. The region has been "largely calm" since 2010, though sporadic violence erupts, notes Reuters, which adds that the ICC is the world's first permanent court for the prosecution of war crimes. The court is in the Hague.
(Read more Omar al Bashir stories.)

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