10 July 2012

Africa: The AU Must Act Responsibly Regarding the Situation in Mali and the Crisis Between Sudan and South Sudan

press release

Photo: Tim McKulka/UNMIS
On the run - again. Residents of Abyei have been displaced numerous times over the years.

As the 19th African Union Summit has just opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, FIDH calls on African Heads of State and Government to act responsibly by taking strong decisions aimed at securing the immediate and sustainable resolution of the conflicts and political crises unhinging the continent and negating respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

"The 19th Summit of the African Union must be reflected by concrete action to put an immediate end to the war crimes committed in Mali and in the Kivus; to settle the disputes between Sudan and the South Sudan, to end the conflicts in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and provide civilians with humanitarian assistance. This is important for the stability of the continent and credibility of the African Union" declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.

On Mali, the AU, together with the ECOWAS, and in accordance with the Security Council Resolution 2056 adopted on 5 July 2012 , must take concrete steps to put an immediate end to the war crimes perpetrated in the North and to restore state authority throughout the territory. The AU must also urge military coup leaders to refrain from interfering in political affairs and allow the transitional authorities to act peacefully to restore constitutional order. Otherwise, Mali could be plunged into horror, triggering violence throughout the entire sub-region.

Similarly, the AU must now consider sanctions if the talks between Sudan and South Sudan on issues including border demarcation, the status of Abyei and the taxes payable for the transit of oil, fail to reach consensus in the time it and the United Nations Security Council have specified.

The AU should also intensify its efforts to end human rights violations in the Sudanese regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The armed conflict, which erupted in June 2011 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and elements of the SPLM-N, continues to claim civilian lives. The humanitarian disaster suffered by nearly 300,000 refugees and displaced persons is worsening; the AU must be firm with the Sudanese authorities in ensuring that these civilians receive prompt and unconditional assistance.

The unstable political and security situation prevailing in Guinea-Bissau since the coup of 12 April 2012 must also receive attention. Ongoing human rights violations in the country are characterised by an increase in arbitrary arrests and detentions, restrictions on freedom of expression, demonstration and movement, and the permanent interference of the military junta in the country's political affairs. This situation will lead to a stalemate scenario if no action is taken to address the violations.

In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fighting between regular armed forces (FARDC), the March 23 Movement (M23) mutineers and other armed rebel groups, proliferate, continuing to claim civilian victims through summary executions, forced recruitment and sexual violence. Some rebel groups are considered close to General Bosco Ntaganda, the subject of an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant since 2006 for recruitment of child soldiers in Ituri. The African Union must take resolute action to stabilise eastern DRC, and place emphasis on the need to fight impunity for those perpetrating the most serious crimes in the region.

Despite the ICC's warning to Islamists operating in Mali, and its issuance of arrest warrants for those alleged to be responsible for the most serious crimes in Sudan and the DRC, impunity continues to prevail in these countries. This provides fertile ground for further conflict and violence. FIDH therefore calls on the Heads of State and Government of the African Union to reiterate their commitment to justice for the victims of crimes by making concrete commitments to providing political and technical support to relevant national criminal jurisdictions and to the strengthening of effective cooperation with the International Criminal Court.

FIDH also takes note of the willingness of African Heads of State to confer criminal jurisdiction to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to enable it to pursue and prosecute perpetrators of the most serious crimes. Our organisation, is concerned about the legal, political and financial implications of such a project, and calls on African Heads of State and Governement to continue consultations on such an extension.

"The possible establishment of a Court dealing with complex and serious crimes can not be achieved overnight without greater consultation with relevant stakeholders and without coordination with the ICC. Pending the adoption, ratification, entry into force and operationalisation of an African Criminal Court, victims of international crimes committed right now in Mali, South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and the Kivus, continue to demand justice. Strengthened support for national courts and cooperation with the ICC must for now be the priority for our Heads of State "said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.

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