African Union refuses to cooperate with al-Bashir ICC warrant

Hannah Cooper
6 July 2009

The African Union (AU) on Friday announced its refusal to cooperate with the warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and made an appeal to the United Nations to delay the case against him.

The toD verdict: The AU decision gives al-Bashir a free pass to travel across the African continent without fear of arrest. Their members, under current leader Moammar Gadaffi, feel that the ICC has unfairly targeted Africans and have criticised the court for imposing a "new world terrorism". However, thirty African states are party to the treaty which created the ICC and are therefore under obligation to arrest al-Bashir should he venture onto their territory.

The AU decision displays the frustration of African leaders over the court's ruling, and its decision to ignore an appeal to delay the investigations. The UN Security Council have the ability to ask the court to suspend the case for a year, with possibility for renewal, under Article 16 of the Rome Statute.

The fact that this AU action is strongly supported by such repressive regimes as Libya is telling in its own way, but underneath this support for the Sudanese president is the genuine concern that his arrest could result in a power vacuum in Sudan. The country's 22-year long civil war ended just four years ago in 2005. However, advocates of the victims of al-Bashir's oppression have said that the AU announcement ignores their sufferings. According to UN figures, around 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million people have been forced out of their homes since 2003.

Meanwhile in Sudan, the authorities were continuing over the weekend to establish contact with the kidnappers of two foreign aid workers.Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle. Sign up to receive toD's daily security briefings via email by clicking here

Clashes break out in China between Uighurs and police

Violence broke out between Chinese police and native Uighurs in the western Xinjiang region of China on Sunday, killing 140 and wounding over 800 people in what looks to have been the deadliest outbreak of rioting in recent years. According to the Chinese government's official Xinhua news agency, riots broke out following unrest over the government's response to an industrial dispute. Government officials have claimed that the unrest was instigated by Uighur exiles of the World Uighur Congress (WUC), a pressure group, who had been plotting from abroad. However, these allegations were refuted by the WUC and also by Alim Seytoff, General Secretary of the Uighur American Association in Washington DC, who pointed to the many Uighur deaths as a result of the clashes. According to Seytoff, official footage of people throwing rocks at and fighting with the Chinese police belies the originally peaceful nature of the protests, which only became aggressive when armed police and armoured vehicles moved in and opened fire on demonstrators.

Seytoff likened the problem in Xinjiang to that in Tibet; repressive government rule along with a policy of placing Han Chinese in the region, supposedly in order to "dilute" Uighur culture, has resulted in widespread unrest. The government's typical response, said Seytoff, is to blame external forces.

Zelaya's return attempt thwarted at airport

An attempt by ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to return to the country was thwarted by the military on Sunday evening, as the former president's aeroplane failed to land after circling over the airport in the capital, Tegucigalpa. Soldiers and riot police blocked the runway and dispelled supporters of Zelaya with tear gas and bullets. At least one of his supporters was killed in the ensuing violence, with a further eight wounded.

Diplomatic moves to resolve the crisis in Honduras look to be making progress, as the interim President Roberto Micheletti has agreed to hold talks with the Organization of American States (OAS). Honduras was suspended from the OAS on Saturday for the military coup that drove Zelaya into exile.

MI6 Facebook faux pas

Pictures of current British ambassador to the United Nations and soon to be chief of MI6 Sir John Sawers were posted on social networking site Facebook, with his wife Shelley failing to set any privacy settings on her account. The Mail on Sunday, who revealed the presence of the photographs, claimed that they represented a breach of security and showed complacency on the part of the government. Information on the page, the tabloid said, was "potentially useful to terrorists." Foreign Secretary David Miliband, however, dispelled concern over the photos: "You know he wears a Speedo swimsuit. That's not a state secret."

Attacks in Ingushetia as violence in Muslim Caucasus region increases

Nine Chechen police officers were killed and a further nine injured on Saturday in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. Gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons on the officers' convoy from the side of the road. Ingushetia's leader, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, is meanwhile still in hospital after being struck during a suicide bomb attack on 22 June. Ramzan Kadyrov of Chechnya has vowed to avenge the attempt on Yevkurov's life, saying of the insurgents: "We will take no captives, we will destroy them. As long as they exist there will be blood." While Chechnya is enjoying a period of relative calm under Kadyrov, neighbouring Muslim Caucasus regions Dagestan and Ingushetia have seen increased levels of violence in recent months, with frequent attacks on local officials and security agents.

Obama hopes to allay tension during Russia trip

US President Barack Obama left the Washington DC on Sunday for a week-long foreign policy trip, with Russia as his first stop. The president was due to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday afternoon, with an aim to "reset" US-Russian relations and, amongst other things, to take steps on a nuclear arms pact between the two countries and to improve their cooperation in the Afghan war effort. However, tensions remain high after relations between the two countries hit their most serious post-Cold War low during the administration of George W Bush. Disagreements include NATO expansions plans, the 2008 war between Russia and neighbouring Georgia and the controversial US missile defence plan. Obama's pre-departure comment that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin still has "one foot" planted in the Cold War will do little to help the sensitive situation.

Anti-Taliban operations kill nine in Pakistan

Nine suspected militants were killed by air strikes over North Waziristan and Orakzai tribal district on Sunday, as part of an ongoing operation to rid the areas of Taliban influence. The strikes were carried out near to where a Pakistani Army helicopter crashed on Friday, killing 26 soldiers and paramilitary fighters. According to government sources the helicopter had been experiencing technical problems, but reports from local officials have emerged which suggest that the helicopter was attacked by militants.

These developments came as reports emerged over the weekend that a close aide of Maulana Fazlullah, the chief of Taliban in Swat, and ten of his followers were killed during a clash in the Qambar region.

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics

US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.

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