KHARTOUM, SUDAN - Sudan's Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition (FFC) is urging the country's government to hand over former President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The coalition, which represents several civilian and rebel groups, played a key role in Bashir's ouster last April. A top FFC official is asking the judiciary to start the legal process required for transferring Bashir to the ICC to face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan's Darfur region.
FFC member Ibrahim Al Sheikh said at a news conference this week in Khartoum that now that a chief justice had been appointed in Sudan, the FFC wanted to see Bashir and other members of his government tried in court, and that they didn't mind if that court was the International Criminal Court.
"Bashir and everyone who has committed any form of crime in this country should get a fair penalty. All members of the Forces for Freedom and Change Coalition have agreed that he should be handed over to the ICC, and we don't have any reservations on this issue," said Sheikh.
In 2009 and 2010, the ICC issued two arrest warrants against Bashir for his alleged crimes in Darfur. Armed groups there launched a rebellion against the Sudanese government in 2003. ICC prosecutors said Bashir, using local militias, was responsible for a campaign of murder, pillaging, torture, rape and genocide aimed at civilians in ethnic groups perceived to be close to the armed groups.
Before his ouster, Bashir made several trips to friendly countries without being arrested.
Sheikh said many Sudanese whose family members were killed during Bashir's time in office, including those who were gunned down during recent protests across the country, have been waiting patiently to see the former president and others face justice.
"We want to see that al-Bashir and all elements of the previous regime are convicted for their crimes. Every single offense should be accounted for," Sheikh said.
Zain Al Abdeen Mohammed, one of more than 100 attorneys defending Bashir in his ongoing trial in Sudan, said his client remained innocent until proven guilty by a Sudanese court, and that since Sudan is not a signatory to the treaty on the ICC, Bashir should stay in Sudan.
"There is no legal argument to take my president or any Sudanese citizen, even if he is a guard, to the International Criminal Court under the Article 11, [which] states that only signatories to the treaty can be convicted by the ICC. Sudan is not a signatory to the ICC," Mohammed told VOA's South Sudan in Focus on Thursday.
A court in Khartoum is trying Bashir on the far less serious charges of processing foreign currency and corruption. A verdict on those charges is expected in about a month.
Mohammed argued that even if Sudan were to ratify the ICC statute today, crimes committed before the ratification date should not be tried in The Hague. He said the Sudanese Penal Code Act 2009 as amended states that no single Sudanese should be tried outside the country's judicial system.
Mohammed said Sudan's court system was fully capable of carrying out justice regarding the former president.
"If there is anyone who seeks justice, we have a competent judiciary system in this country. We have a chief justice, an attorney general and the whole judicial system. We should trust our Sudanese judiciary," Mohammed told VOA.