Sudan to investigate Darfur atrocities under Ousted Leader

About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes during the war, according to the United Nations.

Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, in court in Khartoum on Dec. 14.Credit…Morwan Ali/EPA, via Shutterstock

Sudan has kick-started investigations into the long, bloody suppression of the Darfur region under the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a move aimed at ending years of impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice amid a fragile political transition.

The Sudanese attorney general, Taj al-Sir al-Hibir, said Sunday that the government would look into atrocities committed against civilians in Darfur beginning in 2003, in the first indication that Mr. al-Bashir and some of his allies could face charges related to human rights abuses in Sudan.


Mr. al-Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron fist for almost three decades — a tenure marked by human rights abuses, economic decline, and entrenched corruption. He was indicted a decade ago by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over his government’s actions in the Darfur region from around 2003 to 2008.

His rule came to an end in April after a months-long uprising and just over a week ago, the 75-year-old former leader was found guilty of corruption and illegal possession of foreign currency and sentenced to two years of detention. He faces other charges including some stemming from the crackdown that left scores of anti-government protesters dead this year and his role in the putsch that brought him to power in 1989.


Mr. al-Bashir was replaced by a transitional government that is working to put the northeast African nation on a path to a full-fledged democracy and lift it out of decades of diplomatic and economic isolation. The new government is also under pressure to redress the wrongs of the past.

After Mr. al-Bashir was sentenced last week, human rights agencies called on the transitional government to take concrete measures against perpetrators of violence in Darfur. But delivering that justice may prove easier said than done, given that some of Mr. al-Bashir’s most trusted confidants continue to hold prominent positions in government.

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“The transitional government of Sudan must demonstrate that the ongoing transition will not obscure past crimes and will take into account the demands of all populations in the different regions of the country, including Darfur, for long-lasting peace and justice,” Arnold Tsunga, director of the Africa regional program of the International Commission of Jurists, said in a statement.

The Darfur conflict flared when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Mr. al-Bashir’s government, accusing it of economic and political marginalization. About 300,000 people were killed in the conflict and some 2.7 million were forced from their homes, according to the United Nations.


Sudan’s military has said it will not hand over Mr. al-Bashir to The Hague for trial, even as human rights advocates like Amnesty International have called for his extradition. So while human rights activists have endorsed the notion of regional investigations, they have also expressed concerns.

“The victims in Darfur have the right to justice, and they will be given that justice if al-Bashir is tried in the I.C.C.,” said Amir Suliman, a Sudanese human rights lawyer and co-founder of the nonprofit African Center for Justice and Peace Studies.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok visited the Darfur region in November and promised that his administration would bring peace and help to the victims. Continuing violence and growing food insecurity there are affecting millions of people, the United Nations says.

Among Mr. al-Bashir’s confidants who remain in power is Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan, also known as Hemeti. He is a member of a prominent council tasked with the transition to democracy.

He has been accused of leading a prominent paramilitary force that left a trail of human rights abuse allegations in Darfur. He is also accused of the violent crackdown that left dozens of demonstrators dead in June.

report released this month by the Paris-based organization International Federation for Human Rights in conjunction with the African Center for Justice said Darfuri refugees in eastern Chad still suffered physical and psychological consequences from the war. They feel “forgotten and abandoned,” Mr. Suliman said.

The victims, he said, are looking to both regional and international governments for justice and humanitarian aid.

“We are closely watching to see where this investigation will go,” he said.

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