01 Nov Mbeki Panel Member: We Wanted to Protect Bashir
This isn’t going to help the Panel’s credibility:
The African Union (AU) high level panel on Darfur wanted to find a way out for Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir from the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment, one of the commission members said today in an interview.
This week the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) endorsed a report prepared by an eight-member team headed by former South African president Thabo Mbeki that was tasked with crafting a formula to resolve the conflict in Darfur that would take into consideration peace, justice and reconciliation.
The panel was formed weeks before the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir prompting skepticism from Darfur rebels and other critics who say that the AU wants to circumvent the indictment, something which Mbeki has denied in meetings with Darfur IDP’s.
Mbeki called for a hybrid court to try war crimes suspects and changes to Sudanese laws. It took no position on the ICC warrant except to say that the Hague-based tribunal cannot try all the suspects, effectively supporting its work.
However, one of the members of the AU panel said that the goal of the mission was to give Bashir an exit strategy from the ICC row.
“Incriminating the president is out of question and fundamentally unacceptable” the former Egyptian foreign minister said in an interview with the Egypt based Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
“Our goal was to find a way out [to Bashir] from the dilemma of the ICC that sparked a great deal of controversy,” Maher said.
The AUPD member, who served as Egypt’s Foreign Minister from 2001 until 2004, said that the ICC case against Bashir was “political” in nature and “biased” against the Sudanese head of state “with exaggeration in depicting the situation”.
“Demanding the prosecution of an African head of state before an international tribunal is totally unacceptable” the former Egyptian top diplomat said.
The remarks made by Maher will likely cause a huge embarrassment to the AU and the panel chief, Mbeki who sought to quell accusations on seeking to protect the Sudanese president.
If the Mbeki Panel really was committed to protecting Bashir, they didn’t do a very good job. As the Sudan Tribune notes, the report contains nary a critical word about the ICC or the arrest warrant. And although the report does offer Bashir a “way out” — creating a domestic accountability mechanism that would satisfy the principle of complementarity — its laundry list of needed legal reforms means that, as I have noted before, the likelihood of the Sudanese government creating such a mechanism is precisely zero. By the report’s own logic, therefore, Bashir should face prosecution by the ICC.