AU leaders will not extradite Al Bashir

Monday, July 6, 2009
Bathandwa Mbola

Sirte - African leaders have denounced the International Criminal Court's (ICC) decision to indict Sudanese President Omar al Bashir for alleged war crimes and have refused to extradite him if he travels to their countries.

"[The AU] decides that in view of the fact that a request of the African Union [to defer al Bashir's indictment] has never been acted upon, the AU member states shall not co-operate persuant to the provisions of Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC relating to immunities for the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al Bashir to the ICC," said the leaders in a statement.

A total of 30 African states have signed the Rome statutes which created the foundation of the court, and have treaty obligations to arrest President al Bashir if he travels in their territory. However, this decision effectively allows him to travel across Africa without fear of detention.

The leaders, who had gathered at the 13th African Union Summit in Libya, repeated the call for the United Nations to reconsider the attempted prosecution of President al-Bashir, who was indicted for crimes against humanity by the Hague-based ICC last year.

Libyan leader and current AU chief, Muammar Gaddafi, said the international court represented a "new world terrorism". This view received widespread support from countries who felt the court was unfairly targeting Africans.

President Jacob Zuma said South Africa supported the decision and that the ICC should allow the peace process to take place in the region.

"There is an African stance on this and we are not different from it. We believe peace efforts at the moment should be put forward and given a chance before that."

He said the United Nations Security Council should have listened to Africa before issuing the interdict.

Botswana, however, has said that it does not agree with the declaration.

"The Government of Botswana does not agree with this decision and wishes to reaffirm its position that as a State Party to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC) it has treaty obligations to fully cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and transfer of the President of Sudan to the ICC," said Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani in a statement.

Mr Skelemani said the ICC was established specifically to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community by, for instance, prosecuting those suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"The people of Africa and Sudan in particular have been victims of these crimes. Botswana strongly holds the view that the people of Africa, including the people of Sudan, deserve to be protected from the perpetrators of such crimes," he said.

Advocates of the ICC have also raised concern that arresting President al Bashir might create a power vacuum in Sudan's Khartoum that would hinder the country's peace process.

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