War crimes suspect free amid chaos in Sudan

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.

Ahmed Haroun 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 sides’ commitment to a lasting peace.

The conflict – which began on April15 – arose from a bitter power struggle between the leaders of Sudan’s regular army and a rival paramilitary group, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

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Reports emerged this week of a prison break at Kober – where Ahmed Haroun was serving a sentence alongside Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former president.

On Tuesday, Haroun confirmed in a statement aired on Sudan’s Tayba TV that he and other Bashir loyalists who served under him had left the jail – but said he would be ready to appear before the judiciary whenever it was functioning.

In an audio message circulating on social media, Haroun claimed the group had been aided in their escape by prison guards and the armed forces.

“We made a decision to protect ourselves due to lack of security, water, food and treatment, as well as the death of many prisoners in Kober,” Haroun told al-Sudani, a daily newspaper with ties to Bashir.

Haroun was a key player in the Sudanese government’s brutal response to two long-running and still unresolved civil wars – in Darfur (from 2003) and South Kordofan (from 2011).

He was indicted by the ICC in 2007 for his alleged role in the atrocities in Darfur – described as the first genocide of the 21st Century – when he was the country’s Interior minister.

He faces 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes, with charges including murder, rape, persecution and torture. He denies the charges.

Mukesh Kapila, a former United Nations (UN) coordinator for Sudan, described Haroun as “extremely dangerous” and “unreliable”, adding he had “many followers who have been lurking for the last two decades”. -BBC

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