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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

British Barristers urge African states to stand together to defeat ICC

By Esther Nakkazi

During the Kampala African Union summit, i saw many colleagues hurrying to some place. Naturally, i decided to follow the train and there, a press conference on Sudan President Al-Bashir addressed by two London based Barristers and a Sudanese Human Rights official. Here are the excerpts of the press conference

Plans to lodge a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the indictment of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir by British lawyers are under way. The barristers with Temple Gardens Chambers said they are representing over 8 million people from the Sudanese Workers Union in this case.

They want to challenge the international court over Al-Bashir’s immunity as a serving head of state and if it is lawful for the UN Security Council to refer to the ICC a non-member state like Sudan.

“ We think that these issues which now seem to concern only Sudan may have wider consequences for Africa,” said Geoffrey Nice a barrister with Temple Gardens Chambers, London at the sidelines of the AU summit

The lawyers advised that if other African states behaved like Chad they could stand together and say ‘NO’ to the ICC on the arrest of a serving head of state.

The lawyers were attending the AU Summit in Kampala drumming up support for the AU leaders to say ‘No’ to the ICC even if they emphasized they were not against the ICC and justice. 'Justice should not be selective.'

“If there are countries that think like Chad, they could gather together and say we regard Bashir to be having immunity until his presidential term ends,” said Rodney Nixon, another barrister with Temple Gardens Chambers, London.

They advised that a grouping by African States could carry more weight and the case could be lodged with the International Centre for Justice (ICJ).

The ICC should have a provision so that States should observe other head’s of States immunity and take a clear position whether they are signed up or not.

They warned that unless this is made clear, it would affect relations between states in Africa.

The lawyers said they are collecting sufficient evidence, which they have already worked through to challenge the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

They also have details of the victims of the genocide and have presented them with legal options and they are challenging the ICC on allegations of Al-Bashir committing genocide.

“We are coming up with steps to challenge the sufficiency of the genocide evidence. We have recognized the crimes, it is not the ICC to deal with it,” said Nice.

But they want the case to be tried under the Ocampo regime so that they test the system and also because they anticipate that the next prosecutor will come from Africa, which will be an even bigger challenge.

The African prosecutor will be under pressure to try all these leaders that Ocampo fails to prosecute, said Nice.

Mohamed Ansari, the president of the African Crisis Relief Centre, a Sudanese non-governmental organization argued that there could be no definitive ruling on the case before there is sufficient evidence.

“There should be a desire to get to the bottom of this – these things are not be looked at critically? If nothing were done, then it would get greater strength,” said Ansari.

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