In Kober Prison, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will appear on Tuesday in Khartoum, where he faces the death penalty for his coup in 1989. A trial for history, but also to ward off the ghost of coups, which has been common in Sudan since independence.
The verdict has struck in Sudan. The trial of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashirs opens on Tuesday, July 21, in Khartoum. The ousted dictator has been convicted of his 1989 coup against Prime Minister Sadeq al-Mahdi’s democratic government. Destroyed in 2019, the prisoner, now 76 years old, faces the death penalty.
“It’s a huge trial that opens and it’s surprising to see Sudan give itself such a gigantic ambition with so little preparation,” said Marc Lavergne, research director at CNRS and a specialist in Sudan. I doubt there has been enough instruction. “with many witnesses to answer the many questions that the Sudanese ask themselves. They have endured this regime for thirty years. A quick justice is likely to generate many frustrations.”
An unprecedented, historic, extraordinary trial
At the same time, this trial deserves to be unsurpassed in many respects, firstly because never in the recent history of the Arab world has the author of a successful coup been tested. Secondly, because Omar al-Bashir will be tried by a special court consisting of three judges, and finally the trial promises to be extraordinary in his defense: no less than 150 lawyers will defend the accused.
In the desprévenu box, the former putchist will certainly not be alone. Ten other soldiers and six civilians will also be present, including his former Vice President Ali Osmane Taha and General Bakri Hassan Saleh. A major absentee to report, the coup’s mother, Islamist Hassan al-Tourabi, long mentor to Bashir, died in 2016. But for Marc Lavergne, there are many others absent. “Omar el-Béchir was not the coup’s decision maker. It was a collective conspiracy. He was also an idiot at the beginning. About fifty people ran our diet. Everyone was a decision maker. Among them are ideologues, soldiers or police who do not seem to be worried today. “It gives a feeling that the story is being swept under the rug.”
This trial is “a warning”
The trial of Omar al-Bashir and 16 co-defendants comes as the post-revolutionary transitional government in Sudan launched a series of reforms in the hope of joining the international community, but some question the timeline for this trial. “The country is experiencing a situation of great poverty exacerbated by the health crisis in Covid-19eton may ask if the Sudanese government has no other priorities as it tries to negotiate with the rebel movements in the states of Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.”
This is not the opinion of the civil parties’ lawyers. In a country that has experienced three coups since its independence in 1956 – that of General Ibrahim Abboud (1959-1964), then led in my1969 by Colonel Gaafar Mohammad Nimeiri, in power until 1985, and finally Omar al-Bashir’s coup. – On the contrary, it seems necessary to judge the Putschists in order to deter the urgency of possible rebels. “This trial will be a warning to anyone who tries to destroy constitutional systems and will be tried for this crime. This will save Sudanese democracy. We hope to end the coup era in Sudan,” said Moaz Hadra, one of the lawyers behind the proceedings against the chosen dictator.
“A political trial”
Surprisingly, the defense, for its part, condemns “a political trial that is hidden behind the law. This trial will take place in a hostile environment on the part of the judiciary towards the accused and we will be able to prove it”. At the same time, the legal expert also preceded the political assessment of Omar el-Béchir, who in 2005 signed a peace agreement with the rebels in the south, guaranteed by the UN, the Arab League, the European Union and the African Union. The defense considers the trial unnecessary because the facts took place more than ten years ago.
Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power in April 2019 after months of protests in Sudan, which government security forces cracked down on violence, causing hundreds of deaths. The new authorities have stated that they will cooperate with the ICC.
– HRW in French (@hrw_fr) June 10, 2020
At the end of this trial, many issues are likely to remain unresolved. What is the responsibility? What was the degree of sincerity towards Islamism? “Not sure we get many answers under these circumstances,” admits, skeptical, Marc Lavergne. During the investigation led by the prosecution, Omar el-Béchir and Bakri Hassan Saleh also categorically refused to cooperate. However, they will be present in court.
These are all issues that the ICC in turn can resolve. As Bashir will not be treated fairly after his trial in Khartoum: Sudan has also pledged to hand him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be indicted for war crimes and genocide in connection with the 2003-2004 Darfur conflict, which killed 300,000 and displaced millions.