By Annisa Essack
Ousted dictator of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir may finally face international justice. However, this is not yet guaranteed. Today, Sudan’s joint military-civilian council showed signs that the former leader could finally, be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes for his role in the genocide that began in 2003 in the Darfur region.
The announcement came during peace talks in Juba, South Sudan between the council and rebel groups in Darfur. Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a civilian member of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, said that the council had “agreed that everyone who had arrest warrants issued against them will appear before the ICC.” However, Al-Taishi did not mention al-Bashir directly, but his is the name everyone had in mind.
Although the Sudanese government has offered the possibility that al-Bashir could finally be held accountable for his campaign of terror in Darfur, there are a number of buts. The most important being that it has been agreed in principle but until it is in black and white, and al-Bashir’s handover to the ICC is explicit, it remains just a possibility.
Darfuri victims have long claimed that for a condition of a legitimate peace deal should include al-Bashir facing justice before the ICC.
For those affected by the genocide, the prospect that al-Bashir could potentially appear before The Hague is extraordinary as it once seemed impossible. The announcement offers real hope but it’s far too premature to say with any certainty that it will happen.
If it happens, it would be a momentous deal for Sudan and redemption for the ICC, which has faced criticism for failing to be effective.
The case would be high-profile and one of the biggest the ICC will take but it will also be a litmus test for the court. Prosecutors will have to prove that al-Bashir himself deliberately targeted a certain group and not just the Sudanese government.
For Sudan to take the step of cooperating with the ICC, would be a significant commitment to human rights and international law on the world stage.
Such a move would be more than symbolic — especially for the victims of Darfur.