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AU won't cooperate with ICC on Sudan

July 4, 2009

African Union foreign ministers have voted to suspend cooperation with the International Criminal Court over its indictment of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Sudanese refugees in Darfur
Their struggle is not yet over.Image: AP

After bitter wrangling, the leaders of the 53-member African Union have agreed to denounce the International Criminal Court in the Hague and defy the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.

Sudan's President Omar Omar Hassan Al Bashir, lit creatively from below, with the symbol of the International Criminal Court superimposed.
Sudan's President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir has the African Union behind him.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Montage DW

In a debate that cast the ICC in the role of a toothless stooge of ex-colonial powers, the AU leaders voted not to cooperate in the arrest and transfer of Sudan's president to the ICC.

They argued that the indictment and arrest warrant for war crimes committed during fighting in Sudan's Darfur region could compromise peace efforts in Darfur.

Several countries were not happy with the final document.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is chairing an AU panel responsible for bringing peace to Darfur by making recommendations to the AU's Peace and Security Council, as an alternative to the ICC indictment.

A Sudanese Darfur survivor holds human skulls at the site of a mass grave where he says the remains of 25 fellow villagers lie
Will justice be done?Image: AP

According to international experts, 200,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in the country's remote western region since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003.

Khartoum puts the death toll at just 10,000.

Prior to the decision, New York-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said that if the AU approved the draft resolution, the 30 African states who have signed up to the ICC would be violating their legal obligations.

Meanwhile, it became known that armed men have seized two female aid workers, one Irish and one Ugandan, in Sudan's Darfur region. It is the third kidnapping of foreign aid workers in the territory in the past four months.

Editor: Kateri Jochum