By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 2, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (PSC) has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) defer its arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The AU on Tuesday received briefing on the situation of Sudan and the activities of the AU High Level Implementation of Panel (AUHIP) at its 250th meeting held in Tripoli, Libya, an AU statement said.
The union’s council has called the international community to exert collective support to Sudan by deferring the process initiated by the International Criminal Court ahead of an important independence vote in Sudan’s south due to take place in January. The meetings final communiqué also indicated a need to lift imposed sanctions against Africa’s largest country.
Earlier this year the International Criminal Court (ICC) added the charge of genocide to a 2008 arrest warrant for Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He always denied the charges claiming that the death toll in the conflict has been exaggerated for political reasons. The UN estimates that 300,000 people have died, whereas Bashir has put the figure at around 10,000.
The arrest warrant was the first ever to be by the ICC against a sitting head of state.
In January Sudan’s south is expected to vote to secede from the north in a referendum in January. But negotiations over a separate plebiscite to resolve the future of the border region of Abyei have remain deadlocked with only five weeks left until the vote begins on January 9.
Peace and Security Council of African Union welcomed commitment of the Sudanese Parties, and encouraged them to pursue their efforts towards the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The Council assured the Sudanese Parties of Africa’s full solidarity and support. It expressed its full support to the AUHIP, and encouraged it to pursue and intensify its efforts in accordance with the decision adopted by the 207th meeting of the Peace and Security Council held in Abuja on 29 October 2009.
It has also welcomed the communiqué of the IGAD 16th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, on 23 November 2010, and commended IGAD for its commitment to peace and security in Sudan.
The Council expressed AU’s confidence in the leadership of President Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is also the President of South Sudan to lead the country into a new era of peace, regardless of the outcome of the self determination referendum.
On Wednesday judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an order today asking the government of the Central African Republic to arrest the Sudanese President if he attended the country’s Golden Jubilee Independence Day celebrations. Bashir decided not to attend the event but did not give a reason.
This follows Libya asking Bashir to stay away from a summit between the African Union with the European Union in Tripoli to avoid a mass walkout by EU members.