Presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny says as neighbouring countries with a “volatile relationship”, the best way forward is for Sudan to hand over the convicts to South Sudan. Ateny adds that this is what countries “do in such a situation, to compromise on the way forward”.
“South Sudan will want them to come and serve their sentences in South Sudan where they are near to their families,” he explains. “Being a foreigner in another country does not free you from any crime but what we are asking from Sudan is to extradite them,” Ateny says.
An anti-terrorism court in Khartoum has sentenced 22 South Sudanese nationals to death and three others to life in prison on Wednesday, April 6, for belonging to a militant group in Darfur.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), led by Bakhit Abdul Karim, signed a peace agreement with the Khartoum government in 2013 and handed its weapons to the Government of Sudan. In return they were pardoned by Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir. The pardon however did not include the 25 South Sudanese nationals, according to Reuters.
Extraditing the convicts is a political step that Sudan would be willing to consider, Ahmed Bilal Osman, the Sudanese Minister of Information says. “This might be the next step, when we sit down at a political table, but as for now they have been sentenced to death as our law demands,” Osman adds.
“We caught them with arms four or five years ago after the government forgave the rebel group they were in and actually they committed a grave crime under our law,” Osman explains.
The spokesperson in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ambassador Mawien Makol Arik, stressed that South Sudan respects the verdict passed by Sudan, but says as well that extradition is the international norm and it can be granted by all countries. “I don’t see the reasons why Sudan may refuse to extradite the 25 men,” he says.
The Executive Director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) in South Sudan, Edmund Yakani, says “the sentencing disturbed and stressed, because the alleged 25 men are people with responsibility back home and there is no clear evidence probing their participation in the war”.
“The South Sudan government has been silent for long time and this is not encouraging but depressing,” Yakani adds. “Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any relevant state institution should inform us, the South Sudanese, immediately without any delay. To what level is the government involved in protecting the lives of those South Sudanese?”
The diplomatic relationship between Sudan and South Sudan has deteriorated over the past weeks. Sudan threatened to close the border with South Sudan over allegations that South Sudan supports rebel groups in Sudan. South Sudan repeatedly denied these allegations.