Home | News    Tuesday 17 August 2010

Botswana says Bashir still vulnerable for arrest on its territory despite AU resolution

August 16, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The government of Botswana reiterated its position regarding the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir saying the latter will be arrested should he set foot on its territory.

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Botswana Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Phandu Skelemani (The Herald)

Last month the African Union (AU) issued a strongly worded resolution stressing that its members will not cooperate in apprehending Bashir and chided the ICC prosecutor saying he has been making "unacceptable" and "rude" remarks on the case of the Sudanese president and other African cases handled by the Hague Tribunal.

Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Darfur last year. Last month the court added genocide to the charges, accusing him of orchestrating murders, rapes, and torture in the troubled western region.

Botswana has maintained a position supportive of the ICC and rejecting continent-wide condemnation of the warrant saying it will honour its obligations as a signatory of the Rome Statute which is the founding text of the court.

“We have not surrendered the sovereignty of this country to the AU” Botswana Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Phandu Skelemani told reporters adding that Botswana signed the Rome Statute as a sovereign country.

“The International Criminal Court (ICC) Rome Statute is signed by a Country not AU. Botswana does not fear being isolated by other African countries since they [Botswana] are implementing the international protocols they have signed,” Skelemani added.

“That decision by the AU was a consensus. It was not a unanimous decision. Other countries do not even want the issue to go to a vote,” said the minister.

Botswana Vice president Mompati Merafhe reportedly addressed AU leaders at the summit held in Kampala saying that his country "cannot associate herself with any decision which calls upon her to disregard her obligations to the International Criminal Court".

Merafhe said while Botswana respected the call by other African states for parties to balance their obligations, "Botswana intends to comply with its obligations and to cooperate with the ICC."

He further said that there are no contradictions between the legal instruments of the African Union and the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

"In our view the obligations to the two bodies are not at all in conflict......The heads of state and government have made a commitment to fight impunity, and to protect our constituents against various crimes including crimes against humanity," he added.

Merafhe said his explanation of Botswana’s position was not directed at any particular case, but was addressing the issues of principle.

South Africa has also declared that it will not abide by the AU resolution on cooperating with the ICC.