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Sudanese React to Bashir's Possible Handover to ICC

FILE - Sudan's former president Omar Hassan al-Bashir stands guarded inside a cage at the courthouse where he is facing corruption charges, in Khartoum, Sudan, Aug. 19, 2019.

Some Sudanese living inside and outside of their country are praising an agreement that could send former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court for trial, saying it would be an important step toward justice in the Darfur region.

Bashir was ousted by the military in April after months of mass protests. He faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, where armed groups launched a rebellion against his government in 2003.

There was no word Wednesday on when Sudan’s post-Bashir transitional government might put him and three other men indicted by the ICC on a plane for The Hague. The agreement with Darfur rebel groups was announced Tuesday as the government and rebels held peace talks in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Sudanese rights activist Nahid Jabrallah, who works for the non-governmental organization SIMA in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, said thousands of Sudanese families and women in particular have been waiting a long time to see Bashir held accountable.

"This is very important to reach justice for women in Darfur and stand for women who faced, and [are] facing until now, rape and others [crimes]. So, we are happy for the step,” Jabrallah told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program.

Murtada Salah, a resident of Darfur’s Al Jeneina town now living in Khartoum, said handing over Bashir and his top advisors to the ICC will help heal the trauma experienced by many Sudanese.

"This is very important to all of us as Sudanese,” she said. The many documented instances of human rights abuses in Darfur, such as militias burning villages to the ground, have caused great suffering, she added.

Legal advocate Hashim Abubakker says handing over Bashir might upset the alliance in Sudan’s joint military-civilian transitional government. Some members of the security forces still support Bashir and could cause insecurity, he said.

"This decision would have some political and security implications on the country. And I am quite sure that politicians, tribe mates and professional supporters of those accused within the whole of Sudan would not just keep silent on this matter,” Abubakker told South Sudan in Focus.

FILE - People gather as they celebrate the first anniversary of mass protests that led to the ouster of former president and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, in Khartoum, Sudan, Dec. 19, 2019.

Mohammed Hassan Al Taishi, a member of the government’s negotiating team, said officials are committed to fulfilling its promises made to the people during the revolution.

"Our conviction as government, which made us to agree to allow those who have been issued arrest warrants to be taken before the International Criminal Court, this decision, is based on the principle of justice, which is one of the themes of the revolution, and based on the principle of no impunity,” Al Taishi told South Sudan in Focus.

People from Darfur who now live in Juba say they have been waiting a long time for the day when Bashir goes on trial.

Sixty-one-year-old Mariam Saleh says that under Bashir’s rule, government forces and allied militia killed dozens of her family members, forcing her to flee Sudan in 2009.

Saleh owns a small, makeshift restaurant in Juba’s Customs Market which doubles as her home. Saleh says she yearns to return to her home village of WodiSaleh, but will not go back until Bashir is at The Hague.

"Let him be taken to the International Criminal Court because people were killed, people were burned, and we did not have a place; that is why we came to South Sudan. They took 55 head of cattle and 35 of my relatives were killed in cold blood,” Saleh told South Sudan in Focus.

Nageu Elden Adam, an assistant lecturer at the University of Juba, says he cannot forget the past either.

"What I have seen and what I experienced in the past and the process that is going on to take Bashir to court, actually it gives a good emphasis that there will be something good and better than before,” Adam said.

Yasin Bashar, a graduate from the University of Juba, said Tuesday’s agreement is a good first step toward justice.

"I still see the peace is not yet comprehensive as people [would] like, but if the ICC takes Bashir, all people will feel comfortable,” Bashar said.

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