African leaders talk tough on Darfur war crimes

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- African leaders on Wednesday supported a plan to delay the execution of an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar el-Bash i r, but asked him to take steps to end rights violations in Darfur.
The African leaders went beyond words and asked the Sudanese leader to accept a team of lawyers from the African Union (AU)n and the Arab League to help bring p e rpetrators of the violence in Darfur and help carry out investigations there.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to lead a panel of lawyer s to investigate human rights violations in Darfur and recommend measures to be t aken against the perpetrators.
African leaders made an attempt to rescue President el-Bashir from an impending arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) but the United Nations Secretar y -General Ban Ki-Moon distanced himself from the move.
The UN Secretary-General who attended the meeting of the African leaders, said t he issuance of an arrest warrant if the ICC decides on the matter, was solely an issue that he could not interfere with and asked Sudan to fully cooperate.
The African leaders said steps must be taken to address human rights violations in Darfur and reiterated calls made by the AU that the Sudan must take concrete s teps to investigate the human rights violations in Darfur and stop abuses.
African leaders were adamant on the need to have a year-long stay of the arrest warrant to allow for the setting up of an independent justice system for Darfur.
They agreed to support Sudan to set an independent system of dealing with the ab uses as a substitute for the ICC process.
"We just adopted the resolutions asking for the recall of the decision," African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping told a news conference at the end of the four-day meeting of the African leaders, one of the longest meetings held by the leaders to try to solve a set of issues.
The AU announced ahead of the Summit that it was taking immediate steps to seek a delay of the execution of an arrest warrant against the Sudanese leader for at least 12 months under certain parts of the ICC statute.
The delay would allow for the putting in place of a mechanism to try Darfur war crimes suspects.
"The suspension we were asking for was recalled," Ping said in a brief answer to a question on whether the African leaders considered the issue of rescuing the S udanese leader from the ICC arrest warrant.
Ban said the Sudanese leader must cooperate with the ICC on his case and ensure the protection of the civilians, the foreign troops in Darfur and ensure the "fa i thful" implementation of the north-south peace accord.
The new AU Chairman Muammar Kadhafi said the Sudanese leader must fully cooperat e in the search for a solution to the Darfurian crisis.
The Libyan leader said he would take over the issue of the crisis in Darfur duri ng his chairmanship of the organization, saying the AU remained an organization w hose power was mainly drawn from the "social force" that has been pushing Africa n leaders towards political unity.
In his first warning to the Sudanese leader, Kadhafi said the Sudanese governmen t must work to fully conform with the demands and aspirations of the AU.
"Sudan must apply the constitutive Act of the AU.
If they violate it, they will be penalized," he said.
In the draft decisions taken at the Summit, the African leaders had suggested th at the UN Security Council should seek a deferment of the arrest warrant to allo w the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to examine the crisis in de p th through the setting up of a justice panel.

04 february 2009 15:08:00

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