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Sudanese official makes his first public trip abroad since ICC warrant

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May 20, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – The governor of North Kordofan Ahmed Haroun has appeared in Saudi Arabia in what is believed to be his first trip abroad since his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

From R-L: Governor of North Kordofan Ahmed Haroun, foreign minister Ali Karti, presidential affairs minister Salah Wansi, unidentified Saudi official, president Omer Hassan al-Bashir at Prophet Mohammed mosque in Medina Saudi Arabia May 20, 2015 (Saudi Press Agency)

In April 2007, the judges at the Hague-based tribunal issued an arrest warrant for Haroun who at the time was the minister of humanitarian affairs charging him with 42 counts including murder, torture and persecution in connection with the armed conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

In a photo released by Saudi news agency (SPA) on Wednesday, Haroun was seen standing along with other Sudanese officials including president Omer Hassan al-Bashir at Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in Medina.

Bashir started a previously unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia today for talks with King Salman Bin Abdel Aziz. He was accompanied by foreign minister Ali Karti, presidential affairs minister Salah Wansi and chief of staff Taha Osman. Haroun’s name however, was not listed as part of the official delegation.

It is not clear if Haroun was already in Saudi Arabia on a private visit and joined with Bashir’s delegation later in Medina.

Photos and videos released by Saudi state media did not show Haroun in any of the official meetings held by Bashir in Riyadh.

The Sudanese president flew from Riyadh to Medina after concluding his state visit and is expected to head to Mecca tomorrow for pilgrimage (Umra) before heading back home.

In June 2008, the then ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo disclosed that the court worked with Saudi authorities and a third country to divert a plane that carried Haroun in December 2007 to Mecca for annual Islamic pilgrimage.

Earlier that same year, a well-placed source in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune that Haroun attempted to travel to Saudi Arabia using a forged passport.

Ocampo said that Haroun “has medical problems….sometimes he needs to go outside using different passports.

Haroun was in Jordan, one of the Arab countries that are parties to the ICC, for medical treatment when the case against him was submitted to the judges in February 2007. The Sudanese minister returned immediately to Khartoum that day.

Saudi Arabia is not a signatory of the Rome Statue that is the founding treaty of the ICC.

However, UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1593 referring the Darfur situation to the ICC urged all non-State parties to “cooperate fully”.

The Interpol has also issued a red notice for Haroun at the request of the ICC thus further heightening his risk of apprehension abroad.

Previously, Haroun served as state Minister for the Interior, and is believed to have played a central role in coordinating and planning military operations in Darfur between 2003 and 2005.

He is also accused of orchestrating massacres in the Nuba Mountains earning him the nickname "the Butcher of Nuba."

But it is unlikely that Saudi authorities would make any move to arrest him particularly given the thaw in relationship between Khartoum and Riyadh recently.

?Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia is not considered to be hostile to the court.

It has recently welcomed Palestinian authority’s ratification of the ICC statute and has co-sponsored a UNSC resolution last year to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC that was vetoed by Russia and China.

Dan Verderosa, communications officer at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) called on Riyadh to extradite Haroun.

"When the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC, it urged all states - not just ICC member states - to cooperate fully with the Court. Saudi Arabia should stand with victims in Darfur by arresting Ahmed Haroun and transferring him to The Hague to face justice" Verderosa said.

(ST)

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