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AU angered by latest ICC arrest warrant – posted by

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Published in: Legalbrief Africa
Date: Tue 05 July 2011
Category: African Focus
Issue No: 437

Deep divisions between Africa and the International Criminal Court (ICC) have been in the spotlight over the past week with AU leaders slamming the ICC over the issuing of an arrest warrant for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Legalbrief reports that Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir also highlighted the divisions by visiting China in defiance of the ICC, which depends on the goodwill of states to catch him. Last week’s summit of AU leaders was overshadowed by the fighting in Libya. The African leaders criticised the international campaign against Gaddafi at the 17th Ordinary Session at the level of Heads of State and Government which was held at a luxury Equatorial Guinea resort. Business Day reports that the leaders demanded that Nato halt its bombing campaign in Libya, while AU Commission head Jean Ping accused the ICC of pouring ‘oil on the fire’ by issuing an arrest warrant for Gaddafi. The report quotes Equatorial Guinea’s leader Teodoro Obiang as saying: ‘The interventions for human rights are nowadays causing a massive scourge to mankind.’ According to the report, former Brazilian President Inacio Luiz Lula da Silva drew a standing ovation for his criticisms of the West. He lashed out at the UN for not having an African or Latin American country with a permanent seat on its Security Council. According to a Mail & Guardian Online report, the committee said it agreed on a set of proposals to help Libya emerge from the crisis. It said the proposals would be submitted to the AU assembly for its support. ‘I believe there is certainly a change in the whole perception of Gaddafi. We are in a very different position to the one we were in just five, six weeks ago,’ said Britain’s Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, who attended the first part of the conference. He said he had met with many of the foreign ministers of the 53 member nations attending the conference, and found that even those that were previously reluctant to call for Gaddafi’s ouster are now privately agreeing that he should go.

Libyan rebels yesterday rejected an AU peace plan for their country because they said it would leave Gaddafi in power, notes a report on the News24 site. However, they welcomed an AU offer to open talks with the government in Tripoli without the direct involvement of Gaddafi. BBC News reports that the Transitional National Council said it was the first time the AU had recognised the people’s aspirations for democracy and human rights in Libya. In another development, Libya’s opposition leader said Gaddafi can live out his retirement in Libya if he surrenders all power. Another Mail & Guardian Online report quotes Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who heads the rebels’ national transitional council, as saying: ‘As a peaceful solution we offered that he can resign and order his soldiers to withdraw from their barracks and positions, and then he can decide either to stay in Libya or abroad. If he desires to stay in Libya, we will determine the place and it will be under international supervision. And there will be international supervision of all his movements.’ According to the report, Jalil, who was formerly Gaddafi’s Justice Minister, said he made the proposal about a month ago through the UN but had yet to receive any response from Tripoli. He said one suggestion was that Gaddafi could spend his retirement under guard in a military barracks, the report notes.
Full Business Day report
First Mail & Guardian Online report
Full report on the News24 site
Full BBC News report
Second Mail & Guardian Online report

The ICC has no case against Gaddafi, says Themba Langa, the lawyer leading the legal team from SA that is representing Gaddafi at The Hague, notes a report on the Mail & Guardian Online site. ‘We are satisfied that the ICC has no case, because it has been instructed what to do by the United Nations Security Council,’ Langa is quoted as saying. ‘Based on international law, we’ll succeed. The Security Council has compromised the integrity of the ICC, when it prescribed to the ICC who it should and shouldn’t prosecute. The mandate of the UNSC is to refer cases to the ICC. But here they exceeded their mandate… The ICC should have been allowed to act impartially and independently.’ Langa said that the team’s next step depends on what emerges at the AU summit, that began this week in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
Full Mail & Guardian Online report

The Institute for Security Studies has noted that the misgivings of some African states about the ICC, more especially the concentration of the court’s work on the African continent, are well known. However, it said that with the recent interest expressed by Egypt and Tunisia in joining the ICC, along with Côte d’Ivoire’s request for an ICC investigation into the post-election violence in that country and the UN Security Council’s unanimous vote to refer Libya to the ICC, the AU may have to nuance its assertions on the ICC. The ISS said in a statement: ‘The challenge of impunity on the continent is real. It was for this reason that many African states rallied behind the creation of the ICC whose mandate is to end impunity for gross crimes. Africa’s commitment to justice is evident. The continent remains one of the largest regional blocs in the ICC. The fact that the majority of the African situations before the court were referred by the states themselves not only attests to the weaknesses of some national criminal justice systems but to the commitment of the states’ concerned to fight impunity for gross crimes.’
Full ISS statement

In other developments, SA President Jacob Zuma used the summit to call on African nations to contribute resources to sustain continental development alongside its international partners, notes a Mail & Guardian Online report. Africa is moving in the right direction, with a focus on its economic growth but needs funds to maintain the momentum, Zuma told the delegates in Equatorial Guinea. ‘Africa is now proclaimed as the world’s most profitable region, according to leading economists,’ the report says Zuma told the meeting of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) adopted 10 years ago.
Full Mail & Guardian Online report

The 53-nation AU took a similar stance against an ICC warrant for al-Bashir in 2009 on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. According to a report on the News24 site, Friday’s AU statement absolved Chad, Kenya and Djibouti of any wrongdoing for having received al-Bashir since the warrant against him was issued, saying they were ‘acting in pursuit of peace and stability in their respective regions’. The AU was not against the ICC but the way it appeared to be targeting the continent, Ping noted, according to the report which quotes him as saying: ‘We support the fight against impunity, we do not support impunity, we are not even against the Criminal Court,’ he said. However, ‘we are against the way justice is being rendered because … it looks as if this ICC is only interested in trying the Africans’, he said, referring to decisions by ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
Full report on the News24 site

Meanwhile, al-Bashir continues to jet around the world in defiance of the ICC. Wanted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, Bashir on Friday flew back to Sudan after a three-day official visit to China, where he was given the red-carpet treatment. The visit drew a rebuke by the US and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, but nothing happened to the Sudanese leader in Beijing. According to a report on the News24 site, China slapped down criticism, saying it had not signed the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document, which was ratified by 116 countries promising to co-operate with the independent world crimes court.
Full report on the News24 site

In other developments, the AU says Senegal must try Chad’s former dictator who has been living in the Senegalese capital for decades. According to a report on the IoL site, the AU decision, which was passed last week during its summit in Equatorial Guinea, states it is ‘incumbent on Senegal in accordance with its international obligations to take steps to bring Hissene Habre to trial, or to extradite him.’ The report says Habre, who is accused of torturing and executing opponents, has become a symbol of Africa’s unwillingness to try its own. He has lived in Senegal since 1990, and Senegal agreed to create a special court to try him more than five years ago, notes the report.
Full report on the IoL site See Africa Analyses

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