July 3, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The decision by he African Union (AU) summit held in Libya offering Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir reprieve drew condemnation from Darfur rebel groups and human right groups alike.
The chairman of Sudan Liberation Movement led by Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur said that the AU “has lost all legal and moral legitimacy”.
“This is shocking particularly coming from countries with values and a track record of fighting for human rights and their dignity,” Al-Nur said.
“The AU has effectively decided to grant an indicted war criminal immunity. They can no longer talk about being an organization that does not combat impunity,” he added.
Ahmed Hussein, the spokesperson for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said that “this is a sad day for Africa, Darfur people and to humanity”.
“The African leaders failed to seize this opportunity and prove to the world their position that they value the human lives lost in Darfur” Hussein said.
“This is disgraceful and a serious setback for this organization that as established to be a club to the African people. They decided to stand with the villain and not the victim” he added.
The JEM official said that his movement will now “reconsider” its dealings with the Pan-African group.
The director of International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed dismay at the AU resolution and said that Libya exercised “unprecedented bullying”.
“This is a reminiscent of the same tactics deployed by Bush’s administration [former US president] against the ICC since 2000”.
Dicker said that it is “wrong” to blame the ICC or the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the issue of the Darfur war crimes”.
“There was an independent UN commission of inquiry that included Africans. It was this panel that made the recommendation to the UNSC to refer the [Darfur] situation to the ICC precisely because the Sudanese judiciary failed to act as the first line of defense for victims of crimes over the years” he said.
Today several African officials said the decision was in response to the refusal of the UNSC to defer the arrest warrant under Article 16 of the Rome Statute.
“I think the frustration is misdirected. In fact, it needs to be directed by the African states at president Omer Al-Bashir and his government which has done nothing to bring justice to the people Darfur. This frustration is wildly misdirected to where it belongs at the ICC and the UNSC” he added.
In 2004 the UNSC formed a UN commission of inquiry to look into Darfur abuses headed by former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Italian Antonio Cassese.
The five-member commission included three African figures from Ghana, South Africa and Egypt.
The commission concluded that the government did not pursue a policy of genocide in the Darfur region but that Khartoum and government-sponsored Arab militias known as the Janjaweed engaged in “widespread and systematic” abuse that may constitute crimes against humanity.
They further said that Sudanese judiciary is “is unable or unwilling” to prosecute those crimes and thus recommended referring the situation to the ICC.
The UNSC issued resolution 1593 under chapter VII in March 2005 referring the situation in Darfur to the ICC. At the time Tanzania and Benin voted in support of the resolution while Algeria abstained.