Thursday, 18 April

Sudan crisis: War crimes suspect free amid chaos

World News
Many buildings are reported to have been damaged or destroyed in Khartoum following the recent fighting

A former Sudanese politician wanted for alleged crimes against humanity has said that he and other former officials are no longer in jail - following reports of a break-out.

Ahmad Harun was among those being held in Kober prison in the capital Khartoum who are facing charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A ceasefire between fighting military factions largely appears to be holding.

But there are doubts about both parties' commitment to a lasting peace.

 

The conflict - which began on 15 April - arose from a bitter power struggle between the leaders of Sudan's regular army and a rival paramilitary group.

Reports emerged earlier this week of a prison break at Kober - where Ahmad Harun was serving a sentence alongside Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's former president.

 

On Tuesday, Harun confirmed in a statement aired on Sudan's Tayba TV that he and other fellow former officials who served under Bashir had left the jail - but said he would be ready to appear before the judiciary whenever it was functioning.

Bashir was ousted by the military after mass protests in 2019 and had been serving a jail sentence for corruption.

The 79-year-old has also spent periods at a military hospital - and was moved there again before hostilities broke out, according to two sources quoted by the Reuters news agency.

He is also accused by the ICC of leading a campaign of mass killing and rape in Sudan's Darfur region, which he denies.

Harun has also previously denied the ICC charges against him, which are linked to the alleged inciting of violence against civilians in Darfur. He was arrested in 2019 following the coup against Bashir.

Since then, the country has experienced frequent unrest and several other coup attempts.

 

The ceasefire in Sudan has allowed several countries to evacuate their nationals out of the country. A second evacuation flight rescuing UK nationals from Sudan has landed in Cyprus, while a boat evacuating more than 1,600 people from dozens of countries has now arrived in Saudi Arabia.

Volker Perthes, who is the UN special envoy to Sudan and is currently in the country, said that it seemed the 72-hour pause in fighting was still being observed in some parts of the country.

But gunfire and explosions were reported in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman.

"There is yet no unequivocal sign that either is ready to seriously negotiate, suggesting that both think that securing a military victory over the other is possible," said Mr Perthes.

The ceasefire, which began at midnight (22:00 GMT) on Monday, is the latest attempt to bring stability to the country after fighting broke out between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on 15 April.

At least 459 people have died in this latest conflict so far, though the actual number is thought to be much higher.

 

Thousands more are reported to have fled Sudan and the UN has warned that this is likely to continue.

There is also concern for those who are left behind, with an estimated 24,000 pregnant women currently in Khartoum who are expected to give birth in the coming weeks.

Mr Perthes also said that many homes, hospitals and other public facilities had been damaged or destroyed in residential areas near the army headquarters and airport in Khartoum during the recent fighting.

Source: BBC