The Hague / Khartoum — The office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, has categorically denied reports that an ICC delegation has arrived in Khartoum to discuss a handover of deposed dictator Omar Al Bashir and four others indicted by the Court for war crimes and genocide. Sudan's Minister of Culture and Information has echoed this denial.
In a statement on Tuesday to Radio Dabanga in reply to questions regarding the reports, which appeared in Sudanese news channels on Monday and spread fast via social media overnight, the ICC prosecutor's office acknowledges: "There is currently much speculation and misleading media reports regarding the Sudan situation at ICC. The Office wishes to clarify that it is incorrect that there is an ICC delegation in Khartoum at this time."
The position of the Office has been clear, as articulated by the Prosecutor before the UN Security Council in December of last year, the statement reads (also see video below). .
"As stated then, Sudan must ensure that the five ICC suspects in the Darfur situation are held accountable for the crimes they have been charged with at the ICC, either in a courtroom in Sudan or at the ICC.
"The Prosecutor is encouraged by public statements made by high-level Sudanese officials, which indicate a commitment to accountability in Darfur.
"As the Prosecutor has stated before the UN Security Council, in accordance with the principle of complementarity under the Rome Statute, she has called on Sudanese authorities to engage in dialogue and cooperation with her Office, to ensure that justice is finally served for the victims of atrocity crimes in Darfur - either in a Sudanese court, or before the ICC," the statement to Radio Dabanga concludes.
'Reports completely false'
Sudan's Minister of Culture and Information and government spokesman, Faisal Mohamed Salih, stressed that "the report about the arrival of a delegation of the ICC to Khartoum is completely false".
In a statement via the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA), Salih expressed his regret after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday over "the unprofessional handling of some media by disseminating lies, rumours, and inaccurate news, even though they have the means and mechanisms to verify such information".
Salih explained that should an ICC delegation arrive, "it will be announced officially as soon as it takes place... We have nothing to hide in this connection," he said, calling on the media to "stick to accuracy and credibility".
In an earlier statement via SUNA, Salih, said that sending Al Bashir and other suspects to stand trial in The Hague is "one of several options".
He added that "any decision will need approval of the country's civilian and military rulers".
Salih said that that the options are that the ICC Court comes to Sudan, for Al Bashir and the four other accused to face a "hybrid court", or the suspects could be transferred to The Hague and that it would be discussed with the ICC.
As reported by Radio Dabanga last week, the Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council, Abdelfattah El Burhan clarified that the appearance of Al Bashir and other suspected persons before the ICC does not necessary mean they will stand trial at the court in The Hague.
In an interview with the London-based newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat in Khartoum, El Burhan clarified that "the trial place and procedure are subject to review and negotiation between the Sudanese authorities and their partners".
On February 11, Radio Dabanga reported that the deposed Sudanese dictator Omar Al Bashir and others indicted for war crimes and genocide by the International Criminal Court will be transferred to The Hague to face justice. Government negotiators made this concession to the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel alliance during peace talks on the Darfur track in the South Sudan capital of Juba.
In 2007, the ICC issued arrest warrants against former Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Ahmed Haroun, and former janjaweed leader Ali 'Kushayb' for numerous counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The court issued a first arrest warrant against Al Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2009. The second indictment, for genocide committed against the Fur, Masalit, and Zaghawa tribes in Darfur, followed a year later.
A warrant against former Minister of Interior Affairs, Abdelrahim Hussein, was issued in 2012, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda addresses the UN Security Council in December 2019