Sudan to hand Bashir, other officials wanted for Darfur war crimes to ICC for trial

Sudan’s deposed president Omar Al-Bashir stands in a defendant’s cage during the opening of his corruption trial in Khartoum. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2021

Sudan to hand Bashir, other officials wanted for Darfur war crimes to ICC for trial

  • Bashir faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
  • US welcomes the announcement, says it looks forward to joint action by cabinet and sovereign council to finalize and execute the decision

KHARTOUM/JEDDAH: Sudanese authorities are to hand former dictator Omar Bashir over to the International Criminal Court, where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The move follows talks in Khartoum on Wednesday between ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan and Sudanese sovereign council leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

“Sudan’s commitment to seek justice is not only to abide by its international commitments, but it comes out of a response to the people’s demands,” Hamdok said.

The UN says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the Darfur conflict in western Sudan, which began in 2003. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and later added genocide to the charges.

Bashir, 77, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, was ousted by the military and detained in April 2019 after four months of mass nationwide protests against his rule.

In December 2019 he was convicted of corruption, and is behind bars in the high-security Kober Prison in Khartoum. Since July 2020 Bashir has been on trial in Khartoum for the 1989 Islamist coup that brought him to power, and faces the death penalty if convicted.

FASTFACT

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, was ousted by the military and detained in April 2019 after four months of mass nationwide protests against his rule.

Sudan has been led since August 2019 by a transitional civilian-military administration that has vowed to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under the former dictator. Human rights groups have long accused Bashir and his former aides of using a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

The “cabinet decided to hand over wanted officials to the ICC,” Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Mahdi was quoted as saying by state news agency SUNA, without giving a time frame.

On Wednesday, Khan met the sovereign council’s leader, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, its deputy chair. Daglo said Sudan “is prepared to cooperate with the ICC,” adding that justice was one of the pillars the revolution that deposed Bashir was based on, state news agency SUNA reported.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who also met Khan, said Wednesday that “Sudan’s commitment to seek justice is not only to abide by its international commitments, but it comes out of a response to the people’s demands.”

The sovereign council, a joint military and civilian body overseeing Sudan’s transition toward democracy, said: “We will accomplish our mission in order to achieve the expectations of the international community, especially with regard to Security Council resolutions to achieve justice toward the heroes of Darfur, the victims and the living, who are hungry to achieve justice.”

Despite the move to hand him over to the court, Bashir may not be extradited to the Hague, the ICC’s headquarters, and could be tried in Sudan. Volker Perthes, UN special representative for Sudan, said the ICC could “help with the establishment of a Special Court for Darfur.”

The transitional authorities have previously said they would hand Bashir over, but one stumbling block was that Sudan was not party to the court’s founding Rome Statute.

But last week Sudan’s cabinet voted to ratify the Rome Statute, a crucial move seen as one step toward Bashir potentially facing trial.

ICC spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah did not comment on the announcement, saying Khan was “in Khartoum to discuss cooperation matters,” but that the prosecutor would hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price praised Sudan’s decision to hand over Bashir and other former officials wanted by the ICC for crimes in Darfur, saying it would be a “major step for Sudan in the fight against decades of impunity.”

Price told reporters the US is looking forward to joint action by the cabinet and the sovereign council to finalize and execute the decision. 

“We urge Sudan to continue to cooperate with the ICC by handing over those subject to arrest warrants and by cooperating on the provision of the requested evidence,” he added.

The US for years pressured nations not to welcome Bashir due to the 2009 arrest warrant over the brutal conflict in Darfur, which Washington had described as genocide.

In December, Washington removed Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and later also vowed to clear the country’s arrears with the World Bank.

Bashir is behind bars alongside two other former top officials facing ICC war crimes charges — ex-defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein and Ahmed Haroun, a former governor of South Kordofan.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009 for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, later adding genocide to the charges.

The Darfur war broke out in 2003 when non-Arab rebels took up arms complaining of systematic discrimination by Bashir’s Arab-dominated government.

Khartoum responded by unleashing the notorious Janjaweed militia, recruited from among the region’s nomadic peoples.

Human rights groups have long accused Bashir and his former aides of using a scorched earth policy, raping, killing, looting and burning villages.

Khartoum signed a peace deal last October with key Darfuri rebel groups, with some of their leaders taking top jobs in government, although violence continues to dog the region.

But after years of conflict, the arid and impoverished region remains awash with automatic weapons and clashes still erupt, often over land and access to water.

Last year, alleged senior Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd Al-Rahman, also known by the nom de guerre Ali Kushayb, surrendered to the court, where he faces charges of murder, rape and torture.

(With AFP and Reuters)


Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

Updated 20 sec ago

Israeli transport firm apologizes after Palestinians kicked off bus

  • 3 Jewish passengers refused to travel with Arabs
  • Company: Driver swayed by ‘racist manipulation’

LONDON: An Israeli public transport firm has issued an apology after a racist incident in which 50 Palestinian workers were removed from a bus following complaints from Jewish customers. 

The incident in Tel Aviv sparked controversy after reports that three Jewish passengers boarded in an ultra-Orthodox suburb of the city and refused to share the bus with Arabs. 

The bus firm, Tnufa, said one of the Jewish passengers conned the driver into believing that he was an official from the Transport Ministry, and threatened the driver.

Israelis and Palestinians use the bus to go to and from the West Bank, the BBC reported, adding that Israeli law prohibits segregated services.

Tnufa said the driver was inexperienced and had been swayed by “racist manipulation.” It added that one of the Jewish passengers falsely claimed that the Transport Ministry had ordered that Arabs needed to be kicked off the route.

“The new driver said he argued with the imposter, but he told him that he could lose his job or receive a large fine if he did not follow the instructions immediately,” Tnufa said.

“The company apologises to the passengers for the unfortunate incident,” Tnufa’s CEO Mikhael Kopilovsky said in a statement, adding that “many of our drivers and workers at the company are Arabs.”


New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

Updated 10 August 2022

New buyer sought for first grain to leave Ukraine under deal

  • The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1
  • A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order”

BEIRUT: A new buyer is being sought for the first grain shipment to leave Ukraine under a hard-won deal with Russia after the original Lebanese buyer canceled its order, the Ukrainian embassy said.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 carrying 26,000 tons of maize and had been expected to dock in the Lebanese port of Tripoli at the weekend.
But now the keenly anticipated shipment is looking for a buyer after the shipping agent agreed to a request to cancel the original order in the light of the long delay in delivery.
A five-month delay after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “prompted the buyer and the shipping agent to reach agreement on the cancelation of the order,” the Ukraine embassy said in a statement late Tuesday.
The agent is now studying alternative bids for the maize before deciding on its destination, the embassy added.
The Razoni is currently anchored off the Turkish port of Mersin, according to the Marine Traffic website.
Another ship docked in Turkey Monday with a cargo of 12,000 tons of Ukrainian maize, becoming the first to reach its destination under the deal with Russia brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and established safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Kyiv to ward off any amphibious assault by Moscow on its coast.
Ukraine said Monday it was “optimistic” that the millions of tons of wheat and other grain that had been trapped in its silos and ports could now be exported, in a major boost for world food supplies.

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Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

Updated 10 August 2022

Iraq launches Mosul airport reconstruction

  • The airport, which was heavily damaged in the battle, had been disused since the extremists seized Mosul and adjacent areas in 2014

MOSUL: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi on Wednesday inaugurated the reconstruction of Mosul international airport, still in disrepair five years after the battle that expelled Daesh from the city.
Entire sectors of the northern metropolis have remained in ruins since the July 2017 recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led multinational coalition.
The airport, which was heavily damaged in the battle, has been disused since the extremists seized Mosul and adjacent areas in 2014.
Kadhemi, in an official ceremony at the airport on the southern outskirts of Mosul, laid the foundation stone for its renovation.
Airport director Haider Ali told AFP that the reconstruction has been assigned to two Turkish companies and is expected to take 24 months.
Despite the slow pace of reconstruction, the city of 1.5 million inhabitants has regained a semblance of normality: shops have reopened, traffic jams are back and international agencies have been funding restoration projects for historic sites.
But huge challenges remain.
At the end of 2021, the Red Cross estimated that 35 percent of west Mosul residents and less than 15 percent in east Mosul, which bore the brunt of the fighting, have enough water to meet their daily needs.
Kadhemi, quoted in a statement issued by his office, said that “huge efforts” were being made to rebuild the city.
In January, a provincial official spoke of a $266-million budget for major reconstruction projects, notably in the health, education and transport sectors for 2021-2022, according to the state news agency INA.


Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’

Updated 10 August 2022

Iran scoffs at claims Russia-launched satellite for ‘spying’

  • The satellite, called Khayyam, was launched into space from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only, and does not breach the 2015 nuclear deal

TEHRAN: Iran dismissed as “childish” Wednesday claims by the United States that an Iranian satellite launched by Russia is intended for spying.
The satellite, called Khayyam, was launched into space on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Russian-controlled Baikonur Cosmodrome in neighboring Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
Responding to the launch, Washington said Russia’s growing cooperation with Iran should be viewed as a “profound threat.”
“We are aware of reports that Russia launched a satellite with significant spying capabilities on Iran’s behalf,” a US State Department spokesperson said.
The head of Iran’s Space Agency, Hassan Salarieh, told reporters Wednesday that the spying allegation was “basically childish.”
“Sometimes, some comments are made to incite tensions; saying that we want to spy with the Khayyam satellite... is basically childish,” he said.
“The Khayyam satellite is entirely designed and built to meet the needs of the country in crisis and urban management, natural resources, mines, agriculture and so on.”
Ahead of the launch, there was speculation that Russia might borrow Iran’s satellite temporarily to boost its surveillance of military targets in Ukraine.
Last week, The Washington Post quoted anonymous Western intelligence officials as saying that Russia “plans to use the satellite for several months or longer” to assist its war effort before allowing Iran to take control.
Iran’s space agency stressed on Sunday that it would control the satellite “from day one” in an apparent reaction to the Post’s report.
The purpose of Khayyam is to “monitor the country’s borders,” enhance agricultural productivity and monitor water resources and natural disasters, according to the space agency.
Khayyam is not the first Iranian satellite that Russia has put into space.
In 2005, Iran’s Sina-1 satellite was deployed from Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
Iran insists its space program is for civilian and defense purposes only, and does not breach the 2015 nuclear deal, or any other international agreement.
Western governments worry that satellite launch systems incorporate technologies interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, something Iran has always denied wanting to build.
Iran successfully put its first military satellite into orbit in April 2020, drawing a sharp rebuke from the United States.


Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

Updated 10 August 2022

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

  • Navy escort flotilla was headed by the destroyer Jamaran

TEHRAN: An Iranian naval flotilla thwarted an overnight attack on an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea, a senior commander said Wednesday.
“The escort flotilla of the naval arm of Iran’s armed forces, headed by the destroyer Jamaran... promptly deployed to the scene last night after receiving a request for help from an Iranian ship in the Red Sea, and engaged with the attacking boats,” said the navy’s deputy head of operations, Rear Admiral Mustafa Tajeddini.
“Thanks to the effective (naval) presence and after heavy exchanges, the attacking boats made off,” he told state television.
Tajeddini did not give details of the ship which was targeted or of who was suspected of mounting the attack.
In November 2021, pirates attempted to seize an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, ISNA news agency said at the time.
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian warship repelled an attack by pirates against two oil tankers that it was escorting in the Gulf of Aden.
Like other countries dependent on the shipping lane through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, Iran stepped up its naval presence in the Gulf of Aden after a wave of attacks by Somalia-based pirates between 2000 and 2011.
But the number of attacks has fallen sharply in recent years.