Mbeki to mediate between the ICC and Sudan

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pretoria - The African Union (AU) has appointed former President Thabo Mbeki to chair a committee to investigate human rights violations in Darfur as well as mediate between the ICC and Sudan.

His appointment by the AU follows the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday to issuing a warrant of arrest for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

President Bashir has rejected the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against him.

South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said Mr Mbeki, brokered the deal for Zimbabwe's political rivals to share power following last year's disputed elections, would have the role of mediating between the ICC and Sudan.

The AU had hoped the ICC would delay the charges on President Al Bashir for a year, fearing his indictment would destabilise the situation in Darfur. It held a special session to find ways to halt the issuing of the warrant.

The AU Sudanese Ambassador, Mohieldin Ahmed Salim, during the special session called on all the AU members to pull out of the international court withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the world's first permanent war crimes court in protest against the warrant.

Many Africa leaders have expressed fear that his indictment destabilise the fragile Darfur region, which government and rebel forces had advanced to resolve the crisis.

Ms Nkosazana Dlamini said the ICC's decision to issue an arrest warrant for President Bashir was regrettable, and that South Africa has accepted the AU's initial response to the ICC's decision.

"South Africa has never countenanced any acts of impunity. However, South Africa supported the decision of the AU to defer the issuing of the warrant of arrest against President Bashir by a year to give the peace processes in the Sudan a chance," Ms Dlamini Zuma told local media.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Sudan to reconsider its decision of firing 13 international aid groups in Darfur aiding an estimated 4.7 million people.

The decision will, if implemented, cause irrevocable damage to humanitarian operations there, according to the UN.

The Darfur conflict started in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government complaining of discrimination and neglect in the Darfur region.

The six year conflict in Sudan has killed more than 300 000 people.

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