Botswana says al-Bashir must stand trial at ICC

Botswana on Sunday distanced itself from a decision by African leaders to ignore the International Criminal Court order to extradite Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, the foreign ministry said.

“The government of Botswana does not agree with this decision and wishes to reaffirm its position that as a state party to the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (ICC) it has treaty obligations to fully cooperate with the ICC in the arrest and transfer of the president of Sudan to the ICC,” Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani said in a statement.

The African Union decided on Friday at the summit held in Libya not to cooperate with a war crimes warrant against al-Bashir and again appealed to the United Nations to delay the case.

Skelemani said the ICC was established specifically to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community by, for instance, prosecuting those suspected of committing genocide, crime against humanity and war crimes.

“The people of Africa and Sudan in particular have been victims of these crimes. Botswana strongly holds the view that the people of Africa, including the people of Sudan, deserve to be protected from the perpetrators of such crimes,” he said.

The summit decision effectively allows al-Bashir to travel across Africa without fear of arrest under the warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court.

The decision to ignore the ICC warrant had strong support from Libya and other repressive countries that sympathise with Sudan, but even advocates of the court have worried that arresting al-Bashir could create a power vaccuum in Khartoum that would hinder the country’s peace process.

A 22-year conflict in southern Sudan only ended in 2005, in what had been Africa’s longest civil war. Elections are now planned in February and a historic independence referendum is due in 2011. – AFP

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