Wiki Leaks: AU chief privately critical of Sudan’s inaction on Darfur justice
Monday, February 7, 2011
February 6, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The African Union commission chairman Jean Ping has been unhappy about Sudan’s lack of progress on handing justice for victims of alleged war crimes committed in Darfur, according to a classified U.S. document obtained by the anti-secrecy group Wiki Leaks.
Ping’s views came at a meeting he held in January 2009 with representatives of the P-3 group (United States, United Kingdom and France) in London.
The leaked document released this week states that the meeting was primarily for discussions on the Darfur peace process which started in the Arab Gulf state of Qatar and finding ways to support the African Union-United Nations joint mediator Dijibril Bassole.
The P-3 also tackled with Ping the prospects of deferring the prosecution of Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the adoption of a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that invokes Article 16 of the Rome Statute which is good for a period of 12-months that can be renewed indefinitely.
|African Union commission chairman Jean Ping (Reuters)
At the time the meeting took place, judges at the ICC were still deliberating on the prosecutor’s application but it was widely expected that a warrant was forthcoming.
The Sudanese leader was eventually indicted by the Hague tribunal in March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity and in July 2010 on charges of genocide.
Member states of the AU have rallied behind Bashir and urged the UNSC to freeze the warrant but the call went unheeded. The continental body angry for ignoring its request issued resolutions barring any attempt by African states to apprehend Bashir even if they have an obligation to do so.
Ping in particular has been a fierce critic of the ICC and its prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo saying he is applying double-standard justice and turning a blind eye to war crimes in places like Myanmar, Iraq and Gaza.
“The little chicken-thieves are attacked, the others not,” Ping described the pursuit of alleged war criminals in Africa by the ICC.
But the AU top diplomat acknowledged in his talks with the P-3 group behind closed doors that Khartoum has not done anything to address the issue of justice in Darfur and was of the view that the Sudanese government must engage with the Hague tribunal.
According to the confidential cable created by the U.S. embassy in London, Ping stressed the need for Sudan "to move on internal justice issues with regard to the previous ICC indictees and to engage with the ICC".
To date, the Hague tribunal charged two individuals from the government side besides Bashir including South Kordofan governor Ahmed Haroun and militia leader Ali Kushayb. Sudan refused to surrender the two men and said it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
The UNSC referred the situation in Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2005 after a U.N. international commission of inquiry concluded that the Sudanese judiciary is unwilling or unable to carry out credible prosecutions in the war ravaged region.
Ping underscored to the P-3 diplomats that the AU "has seen no positive movement" by Sudan on Darfur justice. He further said that the AU was going to ask at a subsequent Doha meeting for the Arab League to press Khartoum to move on this issue.
In 2008, the Arab league Secretary General Amr Moussa designed a roadmap for Khartoum to resolve the standoff with the ICC that included conducting national judicial proceedings and changes to criminal law.
But Sudan later rejected the proposal angering Moussa who quietly ended his involvement, according to Arab diplomats.
An AU panel headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki recommended in late 2009 the establishment of a hybrid court consisting of Sudanese and foreign judges to try the perpetrators. Sudan initially said it accepted the report but later disapproved of it saying it is an infringement on its sovereignty.
Mbeki has said in his progress report last November that he has so far been unsuccessful in implementing the justice component as mandated by the AU. The panel chief is unlikely to make any headway on his proposals given his shift of focus from Darfur towards resolving differences between the North and South.
Last month, the state minister for justice Bol Lul Wang told Reuters that Khartoum has not conducted serious investigations into the alleged war crimes in Darfur. He also claimed that the Sudanese government has no will to go after suspects because of the high-level position they occupy.
"The prosecutor may find some difficulties taking procedures against them [Haroun & Kushayb] because they are being protected by the government," Wang said.
In the diplomatic cable, the former U.S. special envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson is seen pressing Ping on the lack of progress on the accountability issue.
He warned Ping that Washington will not allow a deferral motion tabled today to pass in the UNSC even if it was a "14 to one" vote.
The AU chief’s response was the need for the international community to press the Darfur rebels on coming to the negotiation table and made a mention of the Mbeki’s panel but admitted there had been no movement on that.
The account in the cable contrasts sharply with Ping’s public image as someone who is hostile to U.S. and European Union (EU) involvement in African problems while at the same reluctant to criticize the AU governments.
Diplomats say that the Gabonese politician places great emphasis during AU meetings that African nations should operate without Western interference which he blames for fueling conflicts.
During the AU summit that was held in Addis Ababa last week, Ping interrupted a journalist who asked Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema at a news conference about his record as a leader to his country.
Observers and rights groups have criticized Nguema’s assumption of rotating AU presidency, citing his poor human rights record at home which they say stands at odds with the democracy aspirations of the 53-member pan-African bloc.
Ping interrupted the question, calling the question improper. Speaking in French through an interpreter, he said no one says anything when other organizations, such as the European Union, choose leaders with questionable backgrounds.
“I’m of the view that you shouldn’t perhaps, how should I put this, be involved in harassment,” Ping said. “You are not being fair, and you have to treat us and place us on the same footing as other organizations. It’s as if you’re applying double standards.”
Ping also lashed out at the international community’s failure to support AU conflict-resolution efforts in places such as Somalia, Sudan and Ivory Coast. He termed international attempts to settle Ivory Coast’s leadership dispute "ill informed and short-sighted,".