Sudan: Bashir National Trial Continues, but ICC Trial Remains Blocked

As the trial of deposed former president Omar Al-Bashir is set to continue this week, several sources claim former members of the ruling party, the National Congress Party, had prepared a plan to ensure the former president does not appear before the International Criminal Court and remain tried within the country.

Last week a packed courtroom heard the testimony of the former president's office manager, Yaseer Basheer, claiming that the president gave him US$ 11 million, of which US$ 5 million was given to the notorious militia, the Rapid Support Forces. Bashir also gave US$ 4 million to the director and deputy director of the International University of Africa, a private institution with links to Islamists, according to the university's accountant.

Speaking for the first time in court, Bashir claimed he had received US$25 million from the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, among other sources. The former 30-year long authoritarian ruler is facing charges of possessing illicit foreign currency.

Speaking for the first time in court, Bashir claimed he had received US$ 25 million from the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, among other sources.

While Bashir's gross fiscal mismanagement is gradually revealed in a national court, charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Darfur by the International Criminal Court (ICC) may never see the light of day.

Fearing their own implication through an ICC trial, several former ruling party cadres have lobbied members of the Sovereign Council to prevent Bashir's trial to leave the national stage, according to sources close to the former ruling party that cannot be named for security reasons. The decision to ensure Bashir did not face the two ICC arrest warrants against him took place directly after the former president's overthrow on 11 April, according to near-identical statements from the sources.

The plan to spare Bashir international legal scrutiny was adopted by the then Chairman of the Political Committee in the Military Council, General Omar Zain al Abideen, and announced during a press conference following Bashir's ouster. Several National Congress Party (NCP) lawmakers and Gen. Abideen decided to file a police report against Bashir to bring him before an internal court, effectively blocking the ICC whose laws do not allow it to intervene in the event of legitimate national judicial proceedings.

"The two arrest warrants issued against Bashir are not subject to any statute of limitations, and the court will ask the coming government to extradite him," ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdullah told Ayin.

ICC

But the ICC has confirmed its determination to pursue Bashir at all costs, outlining the cases in which Bashir's arrest warrants have been issued are not subject to the statute of limitations. "The two arrest warrants issued against Bashir are not subject to any statute of limitations, and the court will ask the coming government to extradite him," ICC spokesman Fadi al-Abdullah told Ayin. Regarding the possibility of accepting Al-Bashir's trial in Sudan, Abdullah stipulated that the government should make such a request with guarantees that ensure an impartial investigation following the same charges initially filed by the international court.

Advocate and international law expert Salih Mahmood said the ICC charges against Bashir cannot be canceled out by local trials since the ICC charges involve a threat to international security and cannot be waived. Mahmood supported the jurisprudence behind the ICC charges against Bashir, stressing that the national courts lacked independence and obstructed legal procedures by the existing authority at the time. The advocate claims these circumstances are still the same.

"International law gives priority to national courts, but this priority is given in a climate of freedom, independence of the judiciary, and a favourable political situation consistent with international standards of justice," Mahmood said. "The jurisdiction of the Sudanese courts to try Bashir does not apply -we have not yet seen the independence of the judiciary or even a favourable atmosphere for the trial of Bashir at home."

Calls for judicial reform are growing. Mass protests organised by the Sudan Professionals Association took place on Thursday in Khartoum and several other towns calling for the replacement of senior judiciary officials and justice for those killed during the protests earlier this year. Sovereign Council member Siddiq Tawer tried to placate the crowd in Khartoum. "The appointment of an independent judiciary chief and a general attorney is one of the government's priorities considering that justice is one of the demands of the revolution. All those who have committed a crime against the people and country during the previous regime's rule will be held accountable," said Tawer.

"We, as a defense team, have not addressed the issue of the ICC, and there is a near agreement within the defense

Defence team not addressing ICC

Bashir's defense team told Ayin the ICC charges against the former president do not concern them as the decision in this matter belongs to the state and its officials.

Defense lawyer Mohammed el Hassan el Ameen said they are focusing on Bashir's charges of possession of foreign money in his office at the general command exclusively. "We, as a defense team, have not addressed the issue of the ICC, and there is a near agreement within the defense team, which is composed of more than 100 lawyers, not to go into the ICC issue and the charges against Bashir," he said. "There are many statements made in the media by the leaders of the transitional government that affirm they are the decision-makers in trying the president internally or handing him over to the International Criminal Court," he adds. "It's not time yet."

Countless conflict-displaced people in the western Darfur region may not agree with Bashir's defense team. Mowada Yacoub is an internally displaced person [IDP] still eking out a living in Zam Zam camp in North Darfur and told Ayin justice for Bashir and his associates past war crimes should be a priority for the new transitional government. "The Bashir government is the reason why we are in the IDP camps and lost our families," Yacoub told Ayin. "I lost my father, I lost my brother, grandfather, uncle -all of this happened during this war. We don't feel happy after that - even our house was set on fire and our land taken by militias. I lost all of that because of the Bashir government."

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