Home | News    Friday 21 August 2015

Mbeki wants Bashir spared from arrest as AUHIP’s performance is questioned

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August 20, 2015 (WASHINGTON) – The head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHUIP) Thabo Mbeki said that the presence of the Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in the political scene is necessary to achieve peace in the crisis-ravaged east African nation despite charges leveled against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

FILE - AUHIP chief Thabo Mbeki (R) with Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir (L)

Mbeki was commenting on the controversy that erupted after Bashir managed to visit South Africa, an ICC member, to participate in the AU summit without being arrested.

Pretoria ignored a High court order barring Bashir’s departure pending a decision on a case calling for his arrest and officials from the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC) said that the government deliberately chose not to adhere to the judicial command.

The court eventually ruled that Bashir should be detained pending his transfer to the ICC but he had already left the country by then and South Africa told judges that the Sudanese leader left the country without their knowledge.

The government began an appeal process against the court decision on the ground that Bashir enjoys immunity as a head of state. It had also threatened to withdraw from the ICC over the controversy.

Mbeki did not comment directly on the issue but asserted that Bashir is a critical component of the peacemaking process in Sudan based on the wishes of the people there.

“Among the Sudanese, both Sudan and south Sudan. Over the years that we have worked with them; what they have been saying is that they need president Bashir there in order to get him to help them achieve peace. That is what the Sudanese have been saying to us,” Mbeki said at the Thabo Mbeki Leadership Institute in Pretoria.

“If the Sudanese decided that he was irrelevant to the peace process they could have arrested him and sent him over to the Hague but they didn’t want to do that because they say that he is required to achieve peace,” he added.

The former South African president said that his panel is engaging Bashir as he is the head of Sudan and the ruling party as well.

He suggested that it is now time to find a way out for Bashir from the ICC indictment through dialogue with the Hague-based court.

“When you have the population of Sudan say we need this man in order to end the wars that that are going on and then somebody else comes and says, I need to arrest that person. This thing needs to be discussed between the African continent and the International Criminal Court so that if it is important to amend whatever is in the Rome Statute it necessary to do that - because this is a matter that arises all the time" the chief mediator said.

“People who are required to achieve peace, to end wars, to end conflicts; you can’t take that person away and say in the interest of justice we are going to take [him] away,” he emphasized.

Elise Keppler, the acting international justice director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), criticized Mbeki’s remarks arguing that it fails to recognize the victims of the Darfur crimes.

“Discussion on the challenges of advancing peace and justice can be valuable but it does not negate that South Africa flagrantly violated its international treaty obligations to cooperate with the ICC in welcoming Bashir without arrest. Moreover, not once in these statements did Mbeki acknowledge the victims of crimes in Darfur as a relevant constituency to the issues at play,” Keppler said in an emailed statement to Sudan Tribune.

The last AU summit has called on the United Nations Security Council to withdraw the referral of the Darfur case from the ICC. In the past it had only asked for freezing the Bashir warrant.

Mbeki was mandated by the AU in 2009 to implement the recommendations he drafted when he chaired the AU Panel on Darfur (AUPD) which included the establishment of a hybrid court consisting of Sudanese and foreign judges to try the Darfur war crimes suspects. He also called for changes in Sudanese laws in order to make the process of bringing justice in Darfur more credible and effective.

Despite initially accepting AUPD proposals unconditionally, the Sudanese government backtracked and dismissed the idea of a hybrid court.

Bashir himself communicated his rejection of the idea to Mbeki in 2009 and stressed that local judiciary is capable of bring war crime perpetrators to justice.

“We on our end expressed reservation on this point [hybrid court] because we have an independent judiciary and the judicial institution has the [final] say in forming any courts inside the borders to prosecute any Sudanese [citizen]. Mbeki understands our reservations,” Bashir said at the time.

Mbeki appears to have dropped the idea and is no longer addressing it with his focus shifted to relations between north and South Sudan as well as the conflict in Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

‘IRREVERSIBLE DEADLOCK’

Meanwhile, Sudanese civil society groups sent a letter to Mbeki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and members of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) in which they called for a new approach by the AUHIP.

“We in Sudanese civil society believe that the AUHIP has expended significant time and resources to work with the people of Sudan in addressing their deep crisis. These time and resources have not, however, helped to improve the miserable situation in the country where wars and political oppression continue to be the norm. They have not been translated into effective pressure that might have achieved the AUHIP’s objectives—to which the people of Sudan also aspire—a just peace, stability, political transformation and positive contribution towards regional and international peace and security” the letter reads.

“We believe that the work of the AUHIP is stuck in irreversible deadlock. There can be no further waste of time and resource faced with the continuing refusal of, and violations by the Government of Sudan, of the activities, positions and decisions of the AUHIP and the AU, including violation of AU Peace and Security Council Resolution 456”.

They underscored that Bashir “has repeatedly rejected any vital role for AUHIP in peacemaking and democratization”.

“He [Bashir] has announced that the national dialogue will start “with those who attend”. He insists on the Doha Document as the sole solution for the crisis in Darfur, despite its stark failure to create peace, rejection by major political forces and the large increase in displacement of people. Further he declares that talks with the SPLM/N should center on final security arrangements (the very reason for the re-eruption of war in the Two Areas) without addressing first the humanitarian issues or the comprehensive solution envisioned by all the political and civic forces represented in the Sudan Call Alliance. In contrast to the Government of Sudan, the parties to the Sudan Call Alliance have demonstrated full cooperation in its dealing with the AUHIP”.

The memo called for incorporating “new partners” into its structure that would include neighboring states, leading African states, European states concerned with Sudan’s issues as well as regional and international organizations.

The groups also urged the AUHIP to create “a new humanitarian and human rights agenda” that would prioritize addressing the “miserable and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Sudan” and prevent their reoccurrence based on principles of justice and accountability.

“We in Sudanese civil society propose that the AUHIP mobilize its diplomatic and political capacities to seek a re-structuring and strengthening of the Panel. It should endeavor to obtain a new regional and international resolution endorsing the above mentioned proposal to create new AUHIP partners alongside mandating its stewardship of a new single political process to (1) exert all necessary pressure to allow for confidence building and the creation of a conducive political and security environment, (2) achieve a comprehensive cessation of hostilities in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan/ Nuba Mountains in order to address the humanitarian crisis (3) draft a road map for a new constitutional process, including the necessary constitutional arrangements (4) develop mechanisms to address issues related to the conflicts zones, and (5) agree on the executive mechanism of governance and the interim period for the new political process, in order to achieve a comprehensive and just peace, stability and political change”.

(ST)

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