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Former president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, is due to go to Sudanese trial for corruption charges after being ousted from his presidential role by armed forces after massive civilian protests called for a change in government. The former president is not being tried by the International Criminal Court unless he is handed over to the ICC by Sudanese forces. The trial of the former president of Sudan shows the impact of civilian protest to enact positive change and end political dictatorship.
Ahead of the trial, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, Joan Nyanyuki, said in a statement, “While this trial is a positive step towards accountability for some of his alleged crimes, he remains wanted for heinous crimes committed against the Sudanese people.”
Unless he is handed over to the ICC, it is unlikely that Bashir will be prosecuted for the alleged war crimes, according to legal experts. The Sudanese legal system can not prosecute al-Bashir for alleged crimes against humanity because they were committed before Sudan added war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity to the Criminal Act in 2009, according to legal experts.
Ahmed Elzobeir, a Sudan researcher at Amnesty International, informed Al Jazeera, “His trial in Sudan would violate a basic legal principle, no one shall be convicted for acts committed before the law entered into force,”
“We have urged the Sudan authorities to hand al-Bashir over to the ICC to answer for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide,”
“Al-Bashir must face justice not only for recent national crimes but also for the historical crimes he committed under international law,” he added.
The trial of al-Bashir is encouraging because it shows that change can be enacted through civilian protests and that dictators can be removed from power through relatively peaceful protests. The Sudanese people used protests to change their government, and through doing this they are also now able to seek justice for the unlawful and unjust actions of their former President. While the road to justice and a new order of government has not been easy, with protests becoming violent at some points, the Sudanese people utilized peaceful protests. The results of these protests have been fruitful, with the President not only being ousted but put on trial and a new government installed that includes civilian politicians and ensures accountability in the Sudanese government.
According to Al Jazeera, al-Bashir’s government has been criticized for “ethnic cleansing” during a conflict that broke out in the western province of Darfur in 2005. The tribes of Darfur are home to several non-Arab tribes who rebelled against the government in 2003. The UN estimates that between 200,000 and 400,000 people died in the conflict, with a further 2.7 million displaced. In June 2008, the ICC charged al-Bashir with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the ongoing attacks against Darfur’s non-Arab ethnic groups. The ICC has since issued two arrest warrants against him. However, because Bashir is being tried in Sudan he is being tried for corruption charges.
Altogether, it is important to recognize the significance of Bashir’s trial, because it shows the power of peaceful civilian intervention over unjust dictators. al-Bashir is a concrete and visible example to the Sudanese people that their actions and strive towards a more peaceful and just government worked, which is especially important after the violence they have faced for their protests.