AU disregards ICC Gaddafi warrant
Malabo - The African Union has called on its member states to disregard the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, a move that could weaken the ability of the world court to hold the Libyan leader accountable for crimes committed against his people.
The decision passed late on Friday states that the warrant against Gaddafi "seriously complicates" efforts by the African Union to find a political solution to the crisis in Libya.
AU chairperson Jean Ping told reporters that the ICC is "discriminatory" and only goes after crimes committed in Africa while ignoring those committed by Western powers including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"With this in mind, we recommend that the member states do not co-operate with the execution of this arrest warrant," said the motion which was shown to The Associated Press and whose passage was confirmed by Daniel Adugna, a spokesperson in the AU commissioner's office.
If the AU's 53 member states abide by the decision, it opens the possibility that Gaddafi could avoid prosecution by seeking refuge on the soil of neighbouring nations.
That has so far been the case for the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre, who was given asylum in Senegal over 20 years ago, and who is yet to face trial for the alleged torture of hundreds of his opponents even though Senegal agreed in 2006 to create an ad hoc court to try Habre.
Gaddafi's chief of staff who was present at this week's African Union summit applauded the AU's decision, holding a copy of it in his hand on Friday evening as the heads of state emerged for their declaration after a day of closed-door deliberations regarding Libya's future.
Diplomats said that the African body is divided between those that believe Gaddafi needs to step down immediately and those that want to find a dignified exit for a long-time peer.
"This is a Libyan affair and it needs to stay a Libyan affair," said Gaddafi's chief of staff Bashir Saleh. "How can you ask someone to leave his own house?"
Also on Friday, the AU passed a decision saying Senegal must assume its responsibilities and try Habre - or else allow him to be extradited to Belgium, which has offered to try the Chadian leader.
"It is incumbent on Senegal in accordance with its international obligations to take steps to bring Hissene Habre to trial, or extradite him," the statement said.