The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday demanded that deposed Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir stand trial for the mass killings perpetrated in Darfur.
“Now is the time for the people of Sudan to choose law over the impunity and ensure that the ICC suspects in the Darfur situation finally face justice in a court of law,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council.
Bashir, who has been in jail in Sudan since a military coup ended his 30-year rule in April, was indicted by the ICC in 2009 in connection with fighting in the western region of Darfur.
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More than 300,000 people have died there and 2.5 million others have been displaced since 2003, according to UN figures.
Bashir appeared in a court in Khartoum on Sunday to hear corruption charges levelled against him. He also faces possible murder charges for the deaths of demonstrators killed during the protests that led to his downfall.
The generals who now rule Sudan have so far ruled out transferring Bashir to the ICC, which accuses him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The ICC prosecutor said that after the tumultuous events of recent months, Sudan “is now at a crossroads with the opportunity to depart from its previous policy of complete non-cooperation.”
He urged the country to “embark on a new chapter by signalling a new commitment to accountability for the victims” in Darfur.
“I am ready to engage in dialogue with the authorities in Sudan to ensure that the Darfur suspects face independent and impartial justice, either in a courtroom in The Hague or in Sudan,” said Bensouda.
“Continued impunity is not an option,” she said. “The victims of the Darfur situation deserve to finally have their day in court.”
The ICC has issued five arrest warrants in connection with the Darfur case. As well as Bashir, two suspects, Abdel Raheem Hussein and Ahmad Harun, have reportedly been arrested in Sudan, Bensouda said.
Several members of the Security Council, most of them European states, have backed Bensouda’s calls for Bashir to be brought before the international court and for the new authorities in Khartoum to cooperate with the ICC.