Sudan crisis: War crimes suspect flee from Kober prison amid chaos
A former Sudanese politician wanted for alleged crimes against humanity has said that he and other former officials are no longer in jail – following reports of a break-out.
Ahmed Haroun was among those being held in Kober prison in the capital Khartoum who are facing charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
A ceasefire between fighting military factions largely appears to be holding.
But there are doubts about both parties’ commitment to a lasting peace.
The conflict – which began on 15 April – arose from a bitter power struggle between the leaders of Sudan’s regular army and a rival paramilitary group.
Reports emerged earlier this week of a prison break at Kober – where Ahmed Haroun was serving a sentence alongside Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former president.
On Tuesday, Haroun confirmed in a statement aired on Sudan’s Tayba TV that he and other fellow former officials who served under Bashir had left the jail – but said he would be ready to appear before the judiciary whenever it was functioning.
In an audio message circulating on social media, Harun claimed he and other former officials had decided to leave with the help of prison guards and the armed forces.
“We made a decision to protect ourselves due to lack of security, water, food and treatment, as well as the death of many prisoners in Kober,” Haroun told al-Sudani, a daily newspaper in Sudan which is known to have ties to Bashir.
Bashir was ousted by the military after mass protests in 2019 and had been serving a jail sentence for corruption.
The Sudanese army says the 79-year-old is currently at a military hospital in police custody, and was moved there before hostilities broke out.
Bashir is accused by the ICC of leading a campaign of mass killing and rape in Sudan’s Darfur region, which he denies.
Haroun has also previously denied the ICC charges, which were brought against him in 2007. He was arrested in 2019 following the coup against Bashir.
Meanwhile Haroun faces 20 counts of crimes against humanity and 22 counts of war crimes also allegedly committed in the Darfur region between 2003 and 2004 when he served as the country’s interior minister. The charges include murder, rape, persecution and torture.
Since then, the country has experienced frequent unrest and several other coup attempts.
The ceasefire in Sudan has allowed several countries to evacuate their nationals out of the country. A second evacuation flight rescuing UK nationals from Sudan has landed in Cyprus, while a boat evacuating more than 1,600 people from dozens of countries has now arrived in Saudi Arabia.
Volker Perthes, who is the UN special envoy to Sudan and is currently in the country, said that it seemed the 72-hour pause in fighting was still being observed in some parts of the country.
But gunfire and explosions were reported in Khartoum and the nearby city of Omdurman.
“There is yet no unequivocal sign that either [side] is ready to seriously negotiate, suggesting that both think that securing a military victory over the other is possible,” said Mr Perthes.
The ceasefire, which began at midnight local time (22:00 GMT) on Monday, is the latest attempt to bring stability to the country after fighting broke out between the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) nearly two weeks ago.
At least 459 people have died in this conflict so far, though the actual number is thought to be much higher.
Thousands more are reported to have fled Sudan and the UN has warned that this is likely to continue.
There is also concern for those who are left behind, with an estimated 24,000 pregnant women currently in Khartoum who are expected to give birth in the coming weeks.
Mr Perthes also said that many homes, hospitals and other public facilities had been damaged or destroyed in residential areas near the army headquarters and airport in Khartoum during the fighting.