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African Union drops resolution barring arrest of Sudanese president in continent

July 25, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The African Union (AU) delegates at the summit in Uganda agreed to remove language from the draft resolution that instructs its members not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in apprehending the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir.

The original draft text circulated on Saturday included the non-cooperation clause and criticism of the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

"[The AU] reiterates its decision that AU member states shall not cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and surrender of President Bashir," the original draft said.

"[The AU] expresses concern over the conduct of the ICC prosecutor who has been making unacceptable statements on the case of President Bashir, of the Sudan and on other situations in Africa,".

However, the redrafted text obtained by Sudan Tribune removed both clauses following fierce debates between two opposing blocs led by South Africa on one side and Libya on the other.

The new resolution reiterates calls for freezing the arrest warrant by the UN Security Council (UNSC) which has previously went unanswered and urges members to work on amending provisions in the Rome Statute which is the ICC’s bible.

It further defers consideration of the request by ICC to open a Liaison Office to the AU in Addis Ababa.

"Those two parts caused a big fight between the delegates," an African diplomat, who was at the meeting, told Reuters. "Bashir is dividing us."

"South Africa, Ghana and Botswana led the argument that the clauses should be removed," a Western diplomat, who had seen the altered draft, told Reuters.

South Africa and Botswana have both been one of the few nations to dismiss the non-cooperation decision last year at the summit held in Libya and warned that they will arrest Bashir should he sets foot on their territories.

However, The Ghanaian President John Atta Mills at the time expressed support to the resolution saying he will not arrest Bashir should he visits Accra.

"Libya, Eritrea, Egypt and some other countries who have not signed up to the ICC fought strongly against that but they lost out in the end." the Western diplomat added.

The latest text will likely anger the Sudanese government which has recently received a boost after Bashir managed to visit Chad unharmed despite the country being an ICC member with an obligation to arrest him. Chad defended its decision not to arrest Bashir recalling the AU decision last year not to arrest him.

Sudanese officials in Kampala, backed by the AU secretariat, have been lobbying the other nations to take a stance against the ICC on the grounds that it is a European driven court, focusing on the continent only and turning a blind eye to atrocities elsewhere.

Sudan is semi-boycotting the summit by sending its ambassador to the AU to represent it over tension with the host country, Uganda.

African figures slammed at the summit slammed the ICC and its prosecutor saying the warrant against the Sudanese president undermine peace efforts and also said the tribunal is unfairly targeting Africans.

"To subject a sovereign head of state to a warrant of arrest is undermining African solidarity and African peace and security that we fought for for so many years," Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, current head of the pan-African organization.

Mutharika told African leaders at the opening session of AU summit in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to look for ways of resolving the conflict in Sudan without the need to arrest Bashir.

On Saturday, the Commission of the African Union (AU) Jean Ping, a long-time fierce critic of the court, slammed the ICC and said that its prosecutor "does not care" if his actions jeopardize peace in Sudan and reiterated assertions that the Hague tribunal is "bullying" Africa.

The ICC is currently handling 5 cases consisting of Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Darfur and Kenya.

With the exception of Darfur all other cases have been referred voluntarily by their respective governments to the ICC for investigation. The Kenyan case was initiated by the ICC prosecutor after the government there gave the ICC a green light to do so yet declining to refer it for political reasons.

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.

The African continent makes up the majority of the ICC members with 30 countries ratifying the Rome Statute.

Below is the revised text concerning the ICC


The Executive Council,

1. TAKES NOTE of the Progress Report of the Commission on the Implementation of Decision Assembly/Au/Dec.270(xiv) on the Second Ministerial Meeting on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and all comments and observations made by member States and ENDORSES the recommendations contained therein;

2. RECALLS the African Union (AU) position expressed through the Assembly Decision Assembly/AU Dec.270(XIV);

3. REGRETS that the AU request to the UN Security Council to defer the proceedings initiated against President Bashir of the Republic of the Sudan in accordance with Article 16 of the Rome Statute of ICC, has not been acted upon and REITERATES its request in this regard;

4. URGES all Member States to speak with one voice to ensure that the proposed amendment to Article 16 of the Rome Statute be taken into account by the UN relevant organs;

5. REQUESTS Member States that are states parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to ensure that they adhere and honour their obligations to the AU under Article 23(2) of the Constitutive Act;

6. DECIDES to defer consideration of the request by ICC to open a Liaison Office to the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;

7. REQUESTS that the UN takes into account the decisions of the AU in this regard.