A former Sudanese official accused of atrocities in the Darfur region has announced that he would prefer to stand trial before the International Criminal Court rather than in Sudan.
Ahmed Haroun has been wanted by the ICC for more than a decade on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes during the Darfur conflict, which broke out in 2003 and left hundreds of thousands dead.
Haroun, along with other former regime figures, was arrested in Sudan following the April 2019 ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir on the back of mass protests against his three-decade iron-fisted rule.
On Monday, Haroun faced a local investigation committee tasked with probing the fighting in Darfur.
In a five-page statement dated May 3, he accused local authorities of keeping him in custody in “bad faith” and “in violation of the law”, alleging that the public prosecutor “deprived him of the right” to challenge his arrest.
“An authority with this miserable legal performance will not be able or willing to ensure justice,” Haroun said in his statement, which circulated widely on social media on Tuesday.
“For these reasons along with others… I am announcing with confidence that I prefer for my case, if there is one, to be referred to the International Criminal Court.”
Under Bashir, Haroun held several positions including South Kordofan governor and minister of state for the interior.
In 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Haroun citing 42 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, torture, persecution and pillaging.
Sudan’s transitional administration, which came to power after Bashir’s ouster, has been in talks with the ICC about options for trying Bashir and his aides over their role in the Darfur conflict.
Fighting broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels, complaining of systematic discrimination, took up arms against Bashir’s government.
Khartoum responded by unleashing a notorious Arab-dominated militia known as the Janjaweed, recruited from among the region’s nomadic tribes.
The United Nations says the conflict killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.
Bashir, who has been in custody in Khartoum’s Kober prison since he was deposed, is also wanted by the ICC over his role in the Darfur fighting.
Several of his aides are also facing accusations of committing atrocities in Darfur, including ex-defence minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein.
In December 2019, Bashir was convicted of corruption, and he faces a separate trial in Khartoum over the 1989 Islamist-backed coup that brought him to power.
Last year, alleged senior Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, who was also wanted by the ICC, surrendered to the court.