November 1, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese government today stepped up its criticism of the African Union (AU) panel headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki for recommending a hybrid court to try Darfur war crimes suspects.
- Luis Moreno Ocampo, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (Getty Images)
This week, the 15-member AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) endorsed the report compiled by the high level on Darfur including calls for a special court consisting of non-Sudanese judges.
But Khartoum gave the proposal a cool reception with 2nd Vice president Ali Osman Taha telling the PSC in Abuja that the judicial mechanism requires further discussion and stressing that Sudanese law and competence of judiciary “provides the necessary framework to achieve justice”.
Yesterday Sudanese presidential adviser Mustafa Osman Ismail reiterated this position saying that “the sovereignty of Sudan and the independence of its judiciary must be respected”.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) quoted a senior National Congress Party (NCP) as saying that his party has full confidence in the ability of the local judiciary to achieve justice in Darfur.
The political bureau officer at the NCP Mandoor Al-Mahdi also accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of standing behind the hybrid court proposal.
“After Ocampo failed in furthering his agenda through the ICC he now wants to find another entry though the so-called hybrid court” Al-Mahdi said.
This week the ICC prosecutor hailed the special tribunal proposal made by Mbeki’s panel saying that it would complement his court’s work.
“The primary responsibility lies in national states,” Ocampo told Reuters. “The ICC is just doing a piece — prosecuting the most responsible — but then there are other efforts needed”.
The Mbeki panel made an implicit endorsement of the ICC prosecutions in Darfur, contrary to the position taken by the AU which criticized the arrest warrant issued this year for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and instructed its members not to cooperate with the Hague based tribunal in apprehending Bashir.
“This prosecutorial policy inevitably leaves the overwhelming majority of individuals outside of the ICC system and still needing to answer for crimes they might have committed…. justice from the ICC, exclusively, would therefore leave impunity for the vast majority of offenders in Darfur, including virtually all direct perpetrators of the offences” the AU panel report says.
Today a former UN official also criticized the Mbeki panel recommendations on justice saying that it will place Sudan “under international guardianship” and is an infringement on the country’s sovereignty.
“The wise men panel report on this regard is a late wisdom and advanced gullibility and whoever agrees to this proposal has effectively endorsed this late wisdom and hailed this advanced gullibility” the former director general for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Kamil Idris told the Al-Sudani newspaper in an interview.
Idris, who noted his friendship with Mbeki, suggested that the outcome of the report was a result of international pressure leading to “non-African solutions” stressing that Sudanese judiciary has excellent regional reputation.
However, a prominent Islamist writer today warned that the Sudanese government must accept the justice tools put forward by Mbeki.
“[Taha’s response] is a sealed rejection [of the hybrid court] that will eventually be uncovered. The [Mbeki] commission was aware of what he was referring to which is why it recommended changing judicial legislation. Ali Osman the Vice president should have answered as to why the Sudanese judiciary did not carry out its duties towards Darfur crimes over the last six years” Al-Tayib Zein Al-Abdeen wrote today in the independent Al-Sahafa newspaper.
“It is not hard for anyone to realize why the government is foot dragging on this matter all these years because its hands are not totally clean from these [Darfur] violations. All the world’s conspiracies will not clear the government from what it committed against its people in Darfur in heinous crimes” Al-Abdeen said.
“The government will find itself more under siege than ever. The AU stood on the side of the government more than any other international group and it is hard for the government to accuse it of serving imperialist colonialist goals against Sudan or that it stands against Islam and Muslims” he added.
Mbeki told reporters this week that Khartoum accepted hybrid court but that it would need further discussions with the AU especially where it concerned the hybrid court.
“They will look at what the Sudanese constitution allows with regards to that because this will be a precedence that has not been tried on the African continent before,” he said.
In order to allow for establishment of the special court, the panel wants Sudan is to change its laws to allow participation of foreign judges, something which Khartoum rejects.
Despite the opposition made by Khartoum to the AU report, observers express skepticism that the pan-African body will be willing to exert pressure on Sudan to implement it.