Fugitive politician charged with war crimes escapes amidst Sudan conflict

A deserted street in Al Faser, Sudan – Stringer/Imageslive Via Zuma Pre / Dpa

A member of the former regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes has escaped from prison amid fighting that broke out on April 15 between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Ahmed Harun, a former Sudanese interior minister accused of war crimes during the conflict in Darfur, was being held in Kober prison in the capital Khartoum, a facility where a prison break was reportedly recorded earlier this week.

Harun himself has indicated in an audio message that »at the request of the remaining prison security forces, we have moved to another location under a limited guard of no more than three people». The release followed a protest in Kober over the lack of water and electricity.

He also indicated that the decision was taken »in the hope that the prison authorities would obtain a court order to release them, which was not possible,» as reported by the Sudanese news portal Sudan Tribune. Harun stressed that he is ready to appear before the judicial authorities when they have the capacity to take over the proceedings.

Harun also confirmed that among those released is the former vice-president Ali Osman and called for supporting the army in its fight with the RSF, which was immediately criticized by the paramilitary forces, which accused the Armed Forces of allying with elements of the former Al Bashir regime.

The RSF has indicated in a statement published on its account on the social network Twitter that »the coup leaders prepared plans to create contexts to whip up a war to create security justifications that would allow the release from prison of the leaders of the late regime (of Al Bashir) to complete their extremist terrorist project upon their return to power».

»We have warned from day one of the outbreak of the war and stated with conclusive evidence that the leadership of the coup forces has returned to the arms of the extremist organization (referring to Al Bashir’s party),» they said, before claiming that Harun’s words »clearly demonstrate these facts».

In this regard, they have reiterated that the army and »its partners in the defunct regime» seek to »undermine the popular revolution». »We promise our people that we will not backtrack on our promise to protect their glorious revolution (of 2019, when Al Bashir was overthrown), deriving a truly democratic mandate».

»A new revolution has begun, led by the RSFs, to complete the glorious December Revolution to oust the seditious regime and save the Sudanese people from the clutches of oppression, extremism and terrorism,» they have said, before vowing »to defend the revolution to the last drop of blood».

THE ARMY DENIES ANY ROLE In response, the Armed Forces have issued a statement on Twitter in which it has stressed that »the Army has no interest in releasing prisoners from prisons, as that would jeopardize the security of the population».

»Some prisons have registered unrest over the past few days, starting with the break-in of the rebel militia (referring to the RSF) in Al Huda, Soba and Omdurman female prison, forcing the prisons police to release prisoners after killing and injuring several employees,» he said.

Thus, he has indicated that this is in addition to »the behavior of the Kober prison administration, which has released prisoners due to the disruption of water and electricity services». This has created an additional threat to security and public tranquility in Khartoum and it is feared that it could spread to other states,» he added.

»We have no connection with the claims of any group or individual released from these prisons, including the words of Ahmed Harun,» he stressed. Harun has been charged with 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes, although the authorities refused to hand him over to the ICC on the grounds that they had the capacity to try him for his actions in the context of the conflict in the Darfur region.

Therefore, he emphasized that »the rebellion of the RSF militia is the main cause of this complex situation, especially with regard to the continuity of services, given that they have engineers in their power and prevent or force them to sabotage installations».

Reports of Harun’s release from prison come days after Al Bashir, who was also imprisoned in Kober, was transferred to a military hospital in view of the fighting in the area.

The Sudanese Army itself has confirmed that Al Bashir has been transferred to a hospital and stressed that he is »under surveillance by the Judicial Police». Alongside him are four other former high-ranking officials of his regime, in place between 1989 and 2019.

Similarly, Khartoum refused to hand over Al Bashir to the ICC and convicted him of corruption. He was also on trial in the country for his role in the 1989 military coup that propelled him to power, with no proceedings having been opened against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity.


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