KHARTOUM, SUDAN

Although the Sudanese government has tasked an international team to investigate the massacres that took place during the regime of former President Omer al-Bashir, relatives of pro-democracy protesters killed in 2019 have expressed anger at the tardy pace of investigations.

They have threatened to approach the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the Sudanese judicial system has been unable to bring perpetrators to justice after more than two years of investigations.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, a leading member of the “Martyrs Committee” Kisha Abdul Salam said they have begun indirect contacts with the ICC through some lawyers and human rights organizations.

“We waited for more than two years and we didn’t get even a chance to be part of the investigation committee and we don’t know what the investigation committee is doing overall this period, there is no transparency and we don’t trust them. So, we demand to enable international investigators in this committee or we will go directly to the ICC,” he said.

It is believed that on June 3, 2019, the armed forces used heavy gunfire and tear gas to disperse a sit-in by protestors in the capital Khartoum, allegedly killing more than 100 people.

Just a few days ago, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok’s government approved proposed legislation to allow the country to join the ICC.

However, a government source told Anadolu Agency that the case about the Khartoum massacre has to be referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council.

“The ICC intervenes in the cases that are referred to it by the UNSC like the case of Darfur and other cases. Also, this needs a condition that the judiciary system in the country is not able and willing to do the job,” said the government source, requesting anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to the media.

“I think in this case, it’s better to wait for the investigation committee that is already there and began its work to finish before we jump to other alternatives” he added.

Government ropes in international investigators

Deputy Head of the Missing People Investigation Committee Nasur Aldin Youssef said that the government has roped in international investigators from Argentina and other countries to probe into missing persons and the circumstances in which people were killed during and after the sit-in in front of the army headquarters.

The investigation is supported by the US Agency for International Development or USAID. The prosecutor has, however, prevented the investigators from visiting one of the main morgues in Khartoum, which has angered the families of the victims, activists, protesters, and lawyers.

“Sudanese ministry of justice has allowed the international team, representing forensic medicine experts from Argentina in addition to other anthropologists from Columbia University and other institutions,” said Yusuf.

He said the team has arrived in the country in July, which also includes several scientists and high professional doctors. The team has visited two mass graves allegedly belonging to the 2019 massacre and of the army officers killed during the 1990 military coup.

“The team was also scheduled to visit the morgue in Khartoum where the general attorney prevented them from doing their work there,” he said. The general attorney said he was not notified about the visit.

Over the past two years, the Sudanese authorities have found three mass graves of people killed in different incidents, two of them during Bashir’s era.

One of the graves allegedly belongs to students killed inside one of the national military service camps in 1998 of what is known as the “Alailiafon Massacre”.

Mass graves

An investigation by Wail Ali Saeed said that his team has found more than 40 bodies in a grave in southern Khartoum and the forensic analysis confirmed that some of them were shot and drowned in the Nile River when they were trying to escape from the camp in 1998.

The team has unearthed a mass grave containing at least 100 bodies in Omdurman, a twin city of Khartoum, in November 2020. It is believed that the deceased was part of the 2019 demonstrations.

In another case, they found a mass grave of 28 Sudanese army officers, who had attempted a coup against Bashir’s regime in 1990.

Investigator Saeed, further said that the mass graves show the extent of brutality perpetrated on the people.

“This crime is complex actually, with killing, enforced disappearance of people and the intentional hiding of the bodies as well as its threat to the entire social stability of the country. If we want stability in the country, we need to reform the judiciary system and the laws,” he said.

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