AU chief chides ICC prosecutor

2010-07-23 16:33

Kampala - The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor "does not care" if the accusations against President Omar al-Bashir interfere with peace efforts in Sudan, the African Union chief said on Friday.

"We have to find a way for these entities to work together and not go back to war," Jean Ping told reporters in the Ugandan capital, referring to the AU's bids to pacify the various trouble spots in Sudan.

"This is what we are doing but (Luis Moreno) Ocampo doesn't care. He just wants to catch Bashir. Let him go and catch him."

The ICC in March last year accused Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and then this July accused him of genocide in Darfur in the west of Sudan.

According to the United Nations, 300 000 people have been killed in seven years of conflict in Darfur, but the Khartoum government says that 10 000 have died.

Bashir was on Friday in neighbouring Chad for a summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), which expressed backing for him.

The Sudanese leader was also seeking to improve ties with Chad after five years of conflict.

At the opening of the summit, CEN-SAD Secretary General Mohamed al-Madani al-Azhari, a Libyan, expressed the unfailing support of the organisation for Bashir in the face of the ICC.

"Darfur continues to be a source of concern. CEN-SAD refutes all accusations against President Bashir," al-Azhari said.

"These accusations do not contribute to bringing peace to this part of Sudan."

Chad has ratified the ICC's Rome Treaty, but ignored requests from the European Union and the United States that it arrest Bashir on its soil, and aligned itself on the position of the African Union.

Bullying against Africa

Ping, speaking on the sidelines of an AU ministerial meeting, suggested the ICC was guilty of applying double standards regarding Africa.

"We are not against the ICC. There are 30 African countries who are part of the ICC... But we need to examine their manner of operating. There are double standards," he added.

"There seems to be some bullying against Africa."

Recalling South Africa's decision to pardon all individuals who committed crimes during the apartheid era, Ping said Nelson Mandela was "applauded" for the conciliatory approach.

By contrast, he said the AU receives no applause for trying to negotiate with Bashir, rather than seek his arrest.

"Now why do you not applaud us when we are trying to work with (former South African president Thabo) Mbeki in Sudan?" Ping asked.

"Is it because people in South Africa were coming from Europe?"

Mbeki has been tasked with heading an independent inquiry into the Darfur conflict on behalf of the AU.

Ping also seemed to mock Ocampo for complications at the ICC's first ever trial, which is in hand.

"The ICC has just said President Bashir committed genocide in Darfur. On which basis, I don't know.

"I simply want to tell you that while the ICC was accusing President Bashir of genocide, they were (being told) to release Thomas Lubanga," Ping joked.

The court has ordered the release of Congolese militia chief Thomas Lubanga after the suspension of his trial after Ocampo refused to disclose the identity of an individual who played a crucial role in the investigation.

The court's five active investigations are all in African countries.