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Sudan’s military says it won’t extradite Omar al-Bashir to face war crimes charges

The International Criminal Court has indicted the deposed president on charges of human rights atrocities in Darfur.

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at a rally in Khartoum, Sudan, in January 2019.
Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir at a rally in Khartoum, Sudan, in January 2019.
Mahmoud Hjaj/AP
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

Sudan’s military has said it will not extradite former President Omar al-Bashir to face justice for accusations of genocide and war crimes, a day after toppling the longtime leader in a coup.

Al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity including rape and torture for his alleged role in directing the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan from 2003 to 2008. The ICC, which is based in the Hague, Netherlands, has had arrest warrants out for al-Bashir since 2009.

But the court does not have any way to actually arrest suspected war criminals on its own, and must instead rely on individual countries to execute any arrest warrants. That’s how al-Bashir has been able to evade prosecution for so long: As the leader of a sovereign country, there was no way for the ICC prosecute him unless he turned himself in or traveled to another country that decided to arrest and turn him in while he was on their soil.

Once he was toppled in Thursday’s coup, though, there was some hope that maybe, finally, he would be turned over to the ICC to face justice.

But the Sudanese military just squashed that hope pretty quickly. Omar Zein al-Abideen, a senior military official, said Friday that the military leaders now in control of the country would not extradite the deposed leader, but instead would try him in Sudan.

“We will not extradite any Sudanese citizens,” al-Abideen said, according to Al Jazeera. “It’s a dark spot in our history if we extradite him.”

The new leader of Sudan is also tainted by war crimes allegations

The announcement Friday that al-Bashir wouldn’t be extradited confirmed what many Sudanese protesters already feared. And few have faith that any trial in Sudan would be legitimate.

Gen. Awad Ibn Auf, Sudan’s defense minister who announced the downfall of al-Bashir, has now been sworn in as Sudan’s de facto leader.

Ibn Auf himself is a longtime ally of al-Bashir, with a deep career in the Sudanese military. In February 2019, al-Bashir named Ibn Auf his vice president in addition to his job as defense minister, in the wake of intensifying pressure from protesters.

Ibn Auf also served as the head of military intelligence during the conflict in Darfur. In 2007, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him for his alleged role in perpetrating human rights abuses during the conflict through his cooperation with the janjaweed, the pro-government militias that operated in Darfur. The US said that Ibn Auf “provided the Janjaweed with logistical support and directed attacks.”

Given that the man leading the new government that is promising to put al-Bashir on trial for his crimes in Darfur was allegedly directly involved in committing those same crimes in Darfur, it’s pretty unlikely al-Bashir will face any kind of meaningful justice anytime soon.

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