Thursday, November 10, 2011

The president of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister Dijibril Bassole offered rare defense by African politicians of the International Criminal Court (ICC) work in the continent.

November 9, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The president of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister Dijibril Bassole offered rare defense by African politicians of the International Criminal Court (ICC) work in the continent.
The two officials made the remarks at The Hague where they attended a seminar on international justice, peace and crisis management held Wednesday at the Peace Palace. The event was organized by the Swedish embassy to pay tribute to late UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold who was killed fifty years ago in a plane crash.
They emphasized the need to change the negative perceptions by Africans toward the ICC.
"There is a misunderstanding, a misapprehension when it comes to the cases launched by the ICC on the continent," Compaore said at the seminar.
"It is our duty to sensitise Africans... We must continue to convince them that such a court is essential," he added.
The Hague based court came under fierce attack from the African Union (AU) in the aftermath of the arrest warrant issued for Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 charging him with war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.
The continental body issued resolutions instructing members including those who ratified the Rome Statute of the court to ignore their obligations and not apprehend Bashir should he visit. So far Kenya, Chad, Djibouti and Malawi have allowed that to happen.
A similar directive was made with respect to late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who was charged by the court last June.
AU officials particularly its commissioner Jean Ping have also slammed the fact that all cases handled by the court so far are in Africa and accused the ICC of double standards.
Uganda, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ivory Coast have asked the ICC to launch investigations into crimes committed on their territories.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2005 and 2011 referred the situation in Darfur and Libya respectively to the world court under a chapter VII binding resolution.
It was only the case of Kenya where the ICC prosecutor used his authority to launch investigation in a member state after top officials in the East African nation expressed their desire that he makes this move.
Compaore and Bassole said it was not surprising that ICC cases are all in Africa.
"When there are thousands of victims, it is impossible to handle for our national jurisdictions," Compaore argued.
"We all know the majority of crises take place in Africa” Bassole said.
"Many African countries believe that the ICC was a tool from the Western world against African countries," he added. "There’s a perception to be changed."
The ICC is the world’s only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Bassole also used the opportunity to deny that his country ever offered refuge to Gaddafi despite the arrest warrant.
"No, we did not offer asylum to Gaddafi," he said. "And if he had asked asylum in Burkina Faso, we would have proceeded exactly as the president indicated, knowing that we are a member of the ICC and that we have recognized the national transition council at that time."
"We are part of the ICC with all resulting obligations," Bassole added. "If a perpetrator of crimes is indicted as part of ICC, we can’t protect this person. We fully obey to the obligations derived from our membership of the ICC”.
Bassole who was the chief joint mediator for Darfur, acknowledged in his remarks today the impact of Bashir’s warrant on his work.
"In my position of Joint Chief Mediator, I had to observe neutrality, in the interest of the process. Any statement from me, in favor of the proceedings would have been rejected strongly by the Government. In the other hand, the armed movements would have condemned any attitude against the proceedings," he said.
"The two institutions [AU and UN] that have mandated me to find a political settlement to the Darfur conflict, namely the AU and the UN, had different reactions and approaches toward the arrest warrant against President Bashir”.
"I don’t want to give any details here, but it is obvious that it was very difficult to work under two institutions that had different attitude vis-à-vis the arrest warrant".
Bassole also appeared to suggest incentives to Bashir to finalize the Darfur peace process and implement the recently signed agreement.
"If there is a need to encourage President Bashir, I think that this way deserve to be explore," he said without elaborating.
The UNSC has refused to take on request by the AU to consider a 12-month deferral request for Bashir’s warrant.
The Sudanese government lobbied several UNSC members this year to table the motion but so far no formal consultations have taken place in New York

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