Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir appeared in court on Tuesday in Khartoum along with 27 other defendants. Everyone risks the death penalty for the coup in 1989. Due to lack of space, the trial is postponed to 11 August.
The trial is set to begin in Sudan, and the trial of former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir began 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.
The first hearing lasted only an hour because the room could not accommodate all the main characters. The three-judge special court has set August 11 as the next hearing. The 76-year-old ex-autocrat and 27 other defendants were grouped in cages, along with former Vice President Ali Osman Taha and General Bakri Hassan Saleh. Among them are soldiers and civilians.
“A huge trial”
Exceptional safety precautions have been taken to avoid incidents. The families of the accused, who had come in large numbers, shouted “Allah Akhbar” on the arrival of the mobile cars. Omar al-Bashir, in beige trousers and a shirt, wore a mask and gloves and hid his face in front of the photographers. He made no statement.
“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. “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, since Omar al-Bashir will be tried by a special court consisting of three judges, the trial finally promises to be extraordinary in terms of the scope of the defense: no less than 191 lawyers will defend the accused.
In box desprévenu, a great absentee to report: the brain of the coup, the Islamist Hassan al-Tourabi, long mentor of Bashir, died in 2016. But for Marc Lavergne there are many others absent. “Omar el-Bashir was not the decision-maker for the coup, it was a collective conspiracy. He was also for a difficulty in the beginning. About fifty people led his regime. All were decision-makers. Among them ideologues, military or police do not seem to be worried today. It gives a feeling that the story is being thrown under the rug. “
This mood is “a warning”
The trial of Omar al-Bashir and 27 co-defendants comes as the post-revolutionary transitional government in Sudan has launched a series of reforms in hopes of joining the international community, but some are wondering about the 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 lawyers of the civil parties. In a country that has known three coups since its independence in 1956 – that of General Ibrahim Abboud (1959-1964), which was then led in my1969 by Colonel Gaafar Mohammad Nimeiri, in power until 1985, and finally Omar al-Bashir’s coup – it seems on the contrary, it may be 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 convicted of this crime. This will protect Sudanese democracy. We hope in this way to end the Putsch era in Sudan,” Moaz Hadra pleaded. one of the lawyers at the origin of the proceedings against the deposed 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 his first appearance, Omar al-Bashir made no statement.
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.