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Sudanese president in Rwanda as ICC gets support at AU summit

July 18 - 2016 NEW YORK
President Al Bashir arrives in Rwanda for the 27th AU Summit, 16 July 2016 (africanews.com)
President Al Bashir arrives in Rwanda for the 27th AU Summit, 16 July 2016 (africanews.com)

President Omar Al Bashir arrived in Rwanda on Saturday, to attend the concluding session of the 27th AU summit, as a contingent of countries, reportedly including Senegal, Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria and Ivory Coast opposed proposals for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) being tabled.

There remains a chance that AU heads-of-state will discuss the matter, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court states in its Global Justice Weekly today.

Civil society activists as well as the Africa Group for Justice and Accountability have stressed the ICC's continued significance in Africa while others encouraged AU leaders to engage in constructive discussions with the ICC and its backers. The South African Human Rights Commission specifically reached out to South Africa's international relations and cooperation minister to express concern over the country's waning commitment to the Rome Statute.

While Rwanda is not an ICC member state, the decision to welcome the Sudanese president flies in the face of the international community's efforts to re-establish the rule of law following the country's 1990s genocide through the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Al Bashir is suspected by the ICC of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in relation to the conflict in Darfur, Sudan.

ICC judges last week found that ICC member states Djibouti and Uganda failed to cooperate with direct requests to arrest and surrender the Sudanese president while on their territories in May this year.

At the time, the Coalition urged Djibouti and Uganda to uphold their obligations under the Rome Statute. ICC judges have referred to the Court’s governing body, the Assembly of States Parties, and the UN Security Council, which referred the situation to the ICC in the first place. Djibouti faced a similar non-cooperation finding and referral regarding its failure to arrest Al Bashir in 2011, the Global Justice Weekly report reads.

Indicted

Under the Rome Statute Article 25(3)(a), Al Bashir faces ten counts on the basis of his individual criminal responsibility as an indirect (co) perpetrator, including five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of war crimes in 2009, and adding three counts of genocide in 2010. The investigation into the crimes in Darfur by the ICC have been put on hold, however, owing to a lack of action by the UN Security Council.

South Africa

Last year, Al Bashir visited South Africa for an AU summit on 14 and 15 June. He left for Sudan that last day, despite a South African High court order that he should remain in the country while judges deliberated on whether he should be arrested for alleged crimes linked to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

The Court then ruled that Al Bashir should indeed be arrested, but the Sudanese leader had already left on his plane through a military airport.

In response, the ICC requested South Africa, as a signatory of the ICC statute, to explain in writing why it had allowed president Al Bashir to leave the country from a military base.

Some African leaders say the ICC has unfairly targeted African heads of state. The AU said delegates to the summit in Johannesburg had immunity.  


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