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New ICC prosecutor arrives in Sudan

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FILE PHOTO: The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has arrived in Sudan for a week of talks including on outstanding arrest warrants for genocide in Darfur, state media reported Tuesday.

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Khan will hold talks on “ways to boost cooperation” on investigations into the crimes committed during the devastating civil war in Darfur, the official SUNA news agency said.

The United Nations says 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, which erupted in the vast western region in 2003.

Last week, Sudan’s cabinet voted to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, a move seen as a step towards ousted president Omar al-Bashir potentially facing trial for genocide.

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, was deposed in April 2019 following months of protests.

The ICC said that Khan, a British lawyer who replaced Fatou Bensouda as prosecutor of The Hague-based war crimes court in June, was on a “week-long mission to discuss cooperation with the authorities and other stakeholders”.

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Since August 2019, Sudan has been led by a transitional civilian-military administration, which vowed to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under Bashir.

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.

War in Darfur 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.

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

Bashir, who is being held in the high-security Kober prison in Khartoum along with former aides also wanted by the ICC, faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The former president was convicted in December 2019 of corruption and has been on trial in Khartoum since July 2020 for the Islamist-backed 1989 coup which brought him to power.

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.

ICC judges said in July he will be the first suspect to be tried over the Darfur conflict, facing 31 counts including murder, rape and torture.

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