01.02.11 - ICC/AU - AFRICAN UNION REFUSES ICC OFFICE, SLAMS PROSECUTOR

The Hague, February 1st, 2011 (FH) -  During a summit this weekend in Addis Ababa, the African Union again turned down the idea of an International Criminal Court (ICC) liaison office in the Ethiopian capital.
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ICC member countries have approved a budget of 420,900 Euros to open the new office in 2011, but the project is still on hold. The Court has been trying for several years to conclude a cooperation agreement with the African Union and open an office in Addis Ababa, where the AU is headquartered.   

"Building sustainable strategic partnerships with all of these actors in Addis Ababa would clearly strengthen the relationship between the Court and the AU," reads a brief from the ICC Registry.

The ICC has such an agreement with the United Nations in New York. The UN's New York office allows the ICC to lobby for its cause and to be part of political negotiations.

Thirty-one African states have ratified the ICC Treaty so far.

All five of the investigations launched by the ICC Prosecution since 2002 relate to crimes committed in African countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and Kenya). Relations between the Court and the AU soured after the ICC prosecutor issued two International arrest warrants in March 2009 and July 2010 against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bachir for crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.   

The AU decided at its 2011 summit that it would request the UN to suspend all ICC  proceedings against six high profile Kenyans, including members of the government, for alleged crimes against humanity committed during post-electoral violence in December 2007. However, the UN only has the power to suspend ICC proceedings if it deems them "a threat to peace and international security".

At its last summit in July 2010, the African Union declared that its members would not collaborate with the ICC to arrest and hand over President Al-Bachir. The organization strongly criticized ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo for declarations  which it said were "rude and condescending" with regard to Al-Bachir and other cases in Africa. Ocampo had notably compared Al-Bachir's regime to Hitler's.

President of the African Union Commission Jean Ping on Sunday renewed attacks against the Prosecutor. "We Africans and the African Union are not against the International Criminal Court. That should be clear," he said. "We are against Ocampo who is rendering justice with double standards."

SM/ER/GF/JC

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