Home | News    Monday 14 December 2009

Mbeki continues Sudan visit as Bashir voices rejection to hybrid court

December 13, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The chairman of the African Union level panel on Darfur (AUPD) Thabo Mbeki continued his discussions with political powers in Sudan on ways to efficiently implement his panel’s recommendation which was endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) last October.

File - Sudan’s President Omer Hassan al-Bashir delivers a speech during a rally in Al Fasher, northern Darfur March 8, 2009 (Reuters)

The most controversial aspect of the report is the call for a “hybrid Criminal Court which shall exercise original and appellate jurisdiction over individuals who appear to bear particular responsibility for the gravest crimes committed during the conflict in Darfur, and to be constituted by judges of Sudanese and other nationalities”.

The commission concluded that the Sudanese judiciary does not enjoy the confidence of the victims and urged major overhaul of the laws relating to immunities, witness protection and sexual violence.

Sudan has given a cool reception to the proposal with some officials saying that the initiative contradicts with the constitution. The pro-government Sudanese bar association vowed to fight any move in the direction of establishing hybrid court.

Last week and in an interview with ‘Russia Today’ the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir for the first time gave his input dismissing the proposal.

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

“The proposed court is after achieving peace and reconciliation in accordance with the norms and customs of Darfur in resolving disputes and defusing differences and reconciliation is the master of all rulings” he added.

The remarks by Bashir puts a cold shower on the push by Mbeki and the pan-African body to implement the recommendations considered crucial in convincing the UN Security Council (UNSC) to freeze the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the Sudanese head of state.

Mbeki’s report emphasizes that peace, justice and accountability tracks should go hand in hand with no precedence of one over the other.

A number of pro-government columnists urged the Sudanese government to accept the hybrid court proposal so as not to loose the African support in its confrontation with the ICC. During a briefing by the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo at the UNSC, African countries on the council including Libya, Burkina Faso and Uganda urged Khartoum to comply with the panel’s findings.

The report makes no formal opinion on the ICC prosecutions in Darfur but suggests that it should be allowed to continue its work to try a few suspects while the hybrid courts would handle the remaining cases for lesser suspects.

Mbeki met this week with the former rebels of Sudan who expressed support to the idea of the hybrid courts.

“We support the creation of hybrid courts for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur because we do not have confidence in the independence of the Sudanese judiciary,” said Pagan Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

The Sudanese senior presidential assistant and head of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) faction Minni Arcua Minnawi also met with Mbeki. According to Sudan state media, Minnawi said they discussed the possibility of including Darfur peace agreement in the AU panel’s report.

The Sudanese presidential adviser Ghazi Salah Al-Deen Al-Attabani said that his government is willing to engage with the AUPD report.

“We have affirmed readiness of the government to deal with the report in all axes and coordinate with the AU panel currently entrusted with its implementation,” Al-Attabani said.

In reference to the hybrid court proposal the Sudanese official said that there are “some initial and non-final ideas embodied in the report”.

“We have agreed that those ideas need accurate definition together with joint consultations on how to implement them. We do not call this reservation,” he added.

The conflicting remarks by the officials in Khartoum towards the hybrid court idea indicates the challenge Mbeki will face in convincing skeptical Darfuris that he is not siding with the Sudanese government in enforcing the justice portion of his report.

One of Mbeki’s panel members said in an interview last month that the goal of the commission was to save Bashir from ICC indictment.

“Incriminating the president is out of question and fundamentally unacceptable” the former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Maher El Sayed said in an interview with the Egypt based Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.

“Our goal was to find a way out [to Bashir] from the dilemma of the ICC that sparked a great deal of controversy,” Maher said.

Mbeki was reportedly outraged over Maher’s statements and sent a letter of protest to the Egyptian foreign ministry.

The former South African president will head to New York later this week to brief the UNSC on his report on Monday December 21st.