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Sudan opens Darfur crimes probe against former Bashir officials

Former president Omar al-Bashir was convicted last week over corruption and illegal possession of foreign funds
Sudanese protesters arrive from Khartoum to cheering in the town of Atbara on 19 December 2019 to celebrate the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled Omar al-Bashir (AFP)

Sudan has opened an investigation into crimes committed in the Darfur region by officials linked to former president Omar al-Bashir.

The conflict between pro-government forces and ethnic minority rebels left around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the United Nations.

"We have launched an investigation into the crimes committed in Darfur from 2003," prosecutor Tagelsir al-Heber said on Sunday on his arrival in Khartoum after a trip to the United Arab Emirates. 

He added that these were "cases against former regime officials" tied to Bashir, who is sought by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur conflict. 

Warrants for the former president's arrest were issued by the ICC in 2009 and 2010 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but Bashir has not been extradited to The Hague, the seat of the ICC.

Sudan's new transitional government, brought to power after a military coup that overthrew Bashir in April this year, climaxing a four-month protest movement, has vowed to establish peace in conflict-hit regions, including Darfur. 

Bashir convicted

On 14 December, Bashir, 75, was found guilty of corruption and illegal possession of foreign funds and was sentenced to two years in a community reform centre, on account of his old age, a decision that prompted anger among Sudanese whose protests had led to the end of his rule in April. 

He was convicted for illegally accruing funds, keeping foreign currencies at home, and accepting an illegal $25m payment from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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The Sudanese Professionals Association, which became a leading organising force in the protest movement, welcomed the ruling but said it is "certainly not the end of the day".

It said it has teams working on a list of charges they want Bashir to face, including for crimes against humanity in Darfur, the 1989 coup that brought him to power and the torture and killing of prisoners. 

The United Nations has estimated his forces killed at least 300,000 people. 

Protesters have demanded Bashir be handed over to the ICC, but the military leaders who overthrew him have refused to hand him over, even after signing a power-sharing agreement with civilian forces.