Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile] said Monday that he will release all political detainees and renew a commitment to maintain an open dialogue. The president made these statements [Al Jazeera report] after implementing a peace agreement with South Sudan. The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) [Sudan Tribune backgrounder] had been demanding a prisoner release after nearly two years of fighting government forces in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Al-Bashir's regime has long rejected negotiations with insurgents, but Vice President Ali Osman Taha [Sudan Tribune profile] reached out last week to the SPLM-N and opposition political parties, inviting them to join a constitutional dialogue. Sudan is in need of a new constitution to replace the 2005 document based on a peace agreement that ended a 23 year civil war and led to South Sudan's separation [JURIST reports] in July 2011.
Tension in Sudan and South Sudan has remained extremely high following the split, and Sudan has a history of human rights issues. In February the UN urged Sudan security forces to strengthen human rights efforts [JURIST report] and expressed concern regarding the arrest and detention of political opposition figures. In January Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] also urged Sudan [JURIST report] to end its crackdown against political and cultural groups. Al-Bashir has also remained an extremely controversial figure in international politics for his actions during the Darfur conflict [BBC backgrounder]. In June 2011 then-ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said that al-Bashir has continued to commit crimes against humanity [JURIST report] in Darfur. The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] charged him with three counts of genocide [JURIST report] in July 2010, but he has yet to be arrested.