30 June 2016

Africa: ICC, African Union Row Looms Over Arrests

Photo: Morgan Mbabazi/Daily Monitor
Sudanese President Omar al Bashir at a State function in Uganda. African Union leaders have consistently refused to enforce an ICC arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader.

The African Union (AU) is raising a new storm against the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the possibility of using United Nations peacekeeping forces to implement the court's arrest warrants.

The union's Peace and Security Council has directed its member states to reject the court's proposal to use the forces as an extended arm to reign in indicted individuals.

The resolution was made during the council's 606th meeting, just two weeks before union's leaders meet in Kigali for the 27th ordinary summit.

"In light of the foregoing, council recommends to direct African States to the Rome Statute to ensure that during the adoption of the draft ICC Action Plan on Arrest Strategies, there is no provision that includes language requiring the UN Security Council to mandate UN peacekeeping missions to enforce ICC arrest warrants in Africa," a dispatch from the council said.

It added: "And to mandate the Open-Ended Ministerial Committee on the ICC to include this issue in its engagement with UN Security Council, the Assembly of State Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute and other stakeholders on AU concerns on the activities of the ICC in Africa."

The council was referring to the draft Action Plan on Arrest Strategies submitted by the court's rapporteur during the 12th Session of the ASP to the Rome Statute in The Hague, last year.

The Rome Statute is the formative law for the court while the ASP, which includes signatories to the Statute, act as the court's parliament by endorsing new laws or regulations.

Part of the new strategy on arrests was informed by what the rapporteur argued as the court's failure to execute the mandate of ending impunity. He argued such failure "is negatively affected by the protracted non-execution of its requests of cooperation, in particular when it concerns the arrest and surrender of individuals subject to arrest warrants."

As a solution, the ASP was to pass ways of encouraging voluntary surrender of suspects, political isolation of fugitives to force them in, strengthen political and diplomatic support for the court as well as the operational support for arrest operations.

The latter included use of the military including UN peacekeeping forces to execute arrest warrants, the international police (Interpol) and training of security agencies for arrests.

But the African Union which has already accused the court of bias said such a provision could impinge on the UN's tradition of objectivity.

The court is not an organ of the UN, although the UN Security Council may refer certain cases to it.

African Union leaders have consistently refused to enforce warrants of arrest issued by The Hague-based court against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for atrocities in western Darfur region.

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