Home | News    Friday 24 May 2013

Sudan says AU to agree on mass withdrawal from ICC

May 23, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – The African Union summit in Addis Ababa will adopt a resolution endorsing an en masse withdrawal of its members from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a senior Sudanese official said today.

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Sudan’s President Al-Bashir, wearing a southern traditional dress, attends a protest with southern Sudanese against the ICC arrest warrant for him, in Khartoum March 7, 2009. (Reuters)

“We expect the African summit taking place in the coming days to endorse a decision to withdraw from it [the ICC],” presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie was quoted by Sudan official news agency (SUNA).

Nafie said that the ICC practices “proved beyond reasonable doubt that it is a court to serve European international goals….making it a pressure tool on Africa”.

This week the Sudanese ambassador to Ethiopia Sir al-Khitm Khalifa said that Uganda and Kenya made a last minute push to include the ICC issue on the AU summit agenda.

The Kenyan government has been recently on the offensive with the AU and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seeking to terminate the ICC case against its president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Both men face charges of masterminding post-election violence (PEV) in 2007-2008 that drew regional and international outcry.

The Kenyan parliament failed twice to agree on establishing a local tribunal to investigate PEV and pushed for ICC intervention.

However after the ICC produced list of suspects which included six figures, Nairobi sought to have the cases deferred by lobbying the AU and UNSC for invoking Article 16 of the Rome Statute which is the founding text of the ICC.

But the UNSC brushed aside the joint requests submitted by the AU and Kenya.

Following the ascension of Kenyatta and Ruto into office through last month’s elections, the Kenyan government renewed its efforts to have the case dropped arguing that it has the potential of throwing the country into new turmoil.

After his election, Kenyatta said that his country will honor its international obligations as long as they respect his country’s sovereignty which was seen as a sign by some observers that he may not cooperate with the ICC.

The draft text submitted to African foreign ministers at the AU summit in Ethiopia said the ICC trials risked destabilising Kenya when it was undertaking deep reforms to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence five years ago that killed more than 1,200 people.

"We request the countries of the African Union and all friendly nations to ... urge the ICC to terminate the case or refer it [to Kenya] in view of the changes to Kenya’s judiciary and constitutional framework," said the paper seen by Reuters.

Ramtane Lamamra, AU commissioner for peace and security, said that while the continent wanted justice, there was a need to balance this with national reconciliation.

"We’ll reach a solution that will be very close to the document submitted by the region and Kenya," Lamamra told Reuters. "The termination of the case before the court, that will be the best option ... which the parties are working on currently.

Kenya found support from South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir who lashed at the ICC in an unprecedented manner and vowed that his country will never to join the Hague-based court saying it appears to have been established to “only humiliate African leaders”.

"It seems that this thing has been meant for African leaders, that they have to be humiliated...we never accept it…We will sit together with our brothers and sisters in Kenya," Kiir said at a press conference with his Kenyan counterpart in Juba.

South Sudan has taken a neutral stance to the ICC In the past though some of its officials said they are considering joining the court which indicted Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

A foreign minister said some countries were calling for all African signatories to withdraw their ICC membership.

"But they won’t carry the day," the minister, who also asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

The ICC has opened investigations into eight cases, all of which are in Africa including Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Darfur, Kenya, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.

Five of the eight cases were referred voluntarily by the African governments in question; two through a UNSC resolution supported by the bulk of African members in the council at the time and one was opened at the ICC prosecutor’s request.

But the AU has insisted that the court is unfairly targeting African nations and sought to introduce changes to the Rome Statute that would change the mechanisms of ICC case deferrals. It also pushed for the appointment of an African prosecutor which came to light with the election of Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda into this post last year.