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On 3 July 2009 the African Union (AU) agreed that its members should withhold cooperation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the arrest and surrender of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The court issued its arrest warrant for President al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

The AU's decision threatens to block justice for victims of the worst crimes committed on the continent. It is inconsistent with article 4 of the AU's constitutive act that rejects impunity, as well as the treaty obligations of the 30 African governments that ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC. The decision also undermines the consensus reached by African ICC States Parties at a meeting in Addis Ababa in June 2009.

Recognizing our obligation to help protect human rights and uphold the rule of law, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, appeal to African ICC States Parties to reaffirm their support for the ICC and their commitment to abide by their obligations under the Rome Statute, particularly in relation to the arrest and transfer of the President of Sudan to the ICC.

The ICC was created to bring accountability for the most serious crimes of international concern: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. African governments, together with civil society, played an active role in establishing the court and African governments were among the founding ratifiers of the Rome Statute.

A majority of African countries are now Parties to the ICC: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. In ratifying the Rome Statute, these states signaled their dedication to cooperate with the ICC to defend the rights of victims and to ensure that the perpetrators of the most serious crimes known to humankind, whoever they might be, are brought to justice.

In Addis Ababa in June, those states underscored their continued support for the court. Proposals to consider making recommendations in relation to possible withdrawal from the ICC or withholding cooperation from the court failed to win a consensus.

The decision adopted at the AU summit just three weeks later is a backward step. The basis provided by the AU for withholding cooperation with the ICC is the UN Security Council's lack of response to the AU's request for a deferral of the ICC's case against President al-Bashir. Consistent with States Parties' obligations under the Rome Statute, this is a matter to direct to the Security Council and does not warrant withholding cooperation from the ICC.

Following the AU summit, the governments of Botswana and Uganda issued statements reiterating their commitment to cooperating with the ICC. These statements are important.

Civil society across the continent has expressed concern about the AU decision. Ensuring that the determined steps to end impunity on our continent are not undermined requires a collective effort by all Africans. Instead of retreating from important achievements to date, we look to our governments to remain steadfast in their support for justice for victims of the worst crimes, including by reaffirming their commitment to cooperate with the ICC.

Organizations supporting the statement:

1. Action des Chrétiens Activistes des Droits de l'Homme à Shabunda (ACADHOSHA), South Kivu, DRC
2. Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT), Bujumbura, Burundi
3. Adala Association, Rabat, Morocco
4. Advocates for Public International Law Uganda (APILU), Kampala
5. Africa Internally Displaced Persons Voice (Africa IDP Voice), Lusaka, Zambia
6. Africa Legal Aid, Accra, Ghana
7. Africa Talks, Accra, Ghana
8. African Centre on Justice and Peace Studies, Kampala, Uganda
9. African Development and Peace Initiative (ADPI), Adjumani, Uganda
10. AIDS Consortium, Johannesburg, South Africa
11. Amnesty International Burkina Faso
12. Amnesty International-Morocco, Rabat
13. Amnesty International Senegal
14. Amnesty International South Africa
15. Amnesty International Zimbabwe
16. Antenne Social Alert Burkina (ASAB), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
17. Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa, Windhoek, Namibia
18. Arab Center for the Independence of Judiciary and Legal Profession (ACIJLP), Cairo, Egypt
19. Arche d'Alliance, Bukavu, DRC
20. Article 19, Nairobi, Kenya
21. Association ACAT (Action des Chrétiens pour l'abolition de la torture), Madagascar
22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), DRC
23. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme, section du Sud-Kivu (ASADHO/SUD-KIVU), DRC
24. Association Capverdienne des Femmes Juristes, Praia, Cape Verde
25. Association des Animateurs sur le Lac Kivu, Bukavu, DRC
26. Association des Victimes de Crimes et Répressions Politiques au Tchad (AVCRP), N'Djamena, Chad
27. Association des Volontaires du Congo Asvoco-Fondation Dufina, Goma, DRC
28. Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH), Rabat, Morocco
29. Association of Environmental Lawyers of Liberia (Green Advocates), Monrovia, Liberia
30. Association pour la promotion et la défense de la dignité des victimes (APRODIVI), Ituri, DRC
31. Association pour la renaissance des droits humains au Congo (ARC-ONDH), Kinshasa, DRC
32. Association pour les Droits de l'Homme et l'Univers Carcéral (ADHUC), Moungali, Brazzaville - Congo
33. Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense et des Droits de l'Homme, N'Djamena, Chad
34. Breaking The Wall of Silence, Windhoek, Namibia
35. Bureau de Coordination Société Civile du Sud Kivu, Bukavu, DRC
36. Bushenyi District CSO Forum, Bushenyi, Uganda
37. Carrefour d'Idées pour le Développement Intégral (CIDI), Nord-Kivu, DRC
38. Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), Monrovia, Liberia
39. Centre d'études sur la Justice et la Résolution 1325, Kinshasa, DRC
40. Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Johannesburg, South Africa
41. Centre for Constitutional Rights, Cape Town, South Africa
42. Centre for Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA), Freetown, Sierra Leone
43. Centre for Democracy and Development, Abuja, Nigeria
44. Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, South Africa
45. Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Lilongwe, Malawi
46. Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP), Cape Town, South Africa
47. Center for Justice for Accused Persons, Kampala, Uganda
48. Center for Research and Development, Mutare, Zimbabwe
49. Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), Johannesburg, South Africa
50. Center for Trauma Counseling and Conflict Resolution (CETCCOR), Monrovia, Liberia
51. Children Education Society (CHESO), Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
52. Cite des Droits de l'Homme et de Paix (CIDHOP), Bukavu, DRC
53. Civic Initiative, Monrovia, Liberia
54. Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC), Enugu, Nigeria
55. Civil Society Alternative Process of Sierra Leone (CSAP-SL), Freetown
56. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), Bukavu, DRC
57. Coalition Ivoirienne pour la Cour Pénale Internationale, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
58. Coalition of Eastern NGOs (CENGOS), Nigeria
59. Coalition of Justice and Accountability, Sierra Leone
60. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI-RDC), North Kivu, DRC
61. Conseil Régional des ONG de Développement (CRONGD NK), North Kivu, DRC
62. Coordonnateur de la Coalition nationale pour la CPI, Kinshasa, DRC
63. Counselling Services Unit, Harare, Zimbabwe
64. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Harare
65. Culture pour la Paix et la Justice (CPJ), Kinshasa, DRC
66. Darfur Democratic Forum (DDF), Khartoum, Sudan
67. Dauphins Munzihirwa-Kataliko (DMK), Bukavu, DRC
68. Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), Goma, DRC
69. DITSHWANELO - The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Gaborone
70. Dynamique des Femmes Juristes, Goma, DRC
71. Duport Rd Union for Community Empowerment and Development, Monrovia, Liberia
72. East Africa Law Society (EALS)
73. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Kampala, Uganda
74. Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nairobi, Kenya
75. Foundation for Human Rights & Democracy (FOHRD), Monrovia, Liberia
76. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Kampala, Uganda
77. Greater Northern Uganda Transitional Justice Working Group (GNTJWG), Gulu, Uganda
78. Group JEREMIE, Bukavu, DRC
79. Group of Actions Against Marginalisation (GRAM-Kivu), Bukavu, DRC
80. Groupe Lufalanga Pour La Justice et La Paix, Makiso, DRC
81. Gulu NGO Forum, Uganda
82. Héritiers de la justice, Bukavu, DRC
83. Human Rights and Documentation Centre (HRDC), Windhoek, Namibia
84. Human Rights and Protection Forum (HRPF), Monrovia, Liberia
85. Human Rights Concern - Eritrea
86. Human Rights First Association for Rwanda (HRFA-R)
87. Human Rights Institute of South Africa, Johannesburg
88. Human Rights Media Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
89. Human Rights Network, Uganda (HURINET (U))
90. Human Rights Watch, Johannesburg, South Africa
91. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), Bukavu, DRC
92. Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
93. Institute for African Integration (iAi), Harare, Zimbabwe
94. Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Banjul, The Gambia
95. International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), Nairobi, Kenya
96. International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), Cape Town, South Africa
97. International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa
98. International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Anambra state, Nigeria
99. Justice and Peace Commision (JPC), Northern Uganda Arch diocese, Gulu, Uganda
100. Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP), Gulu, Uganda
101. Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Nairobi
102. Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya), Nairobi
103. Khartoum Center for Human Rights & Environmental Development, Sudan
104. Khulumani Support Group, Pretoria, South Africa
105. Kituo Cha Katiba, Kampala, Uganda
106. La coalition Centrafricaine pour la CPI, Central Africa Republic
107. La Ligue Algérienne pour la Décence des Droits de L'Homme, Algiers, Algeria
108. La Ligue des Electeurs (LE), DRC
109. La Maison des Droits de l'Homme du Cameroun, Douala, Cameroon
110. La Solidarité pour la Promotion sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), DRC and Rwanda
111. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Pretoria, South Africa
112. Legal Assistance Centre, Windhoek, Namibia
113. Liberia Media Center, Monrovia
114. Lutheran Church Massacre Survival and Victims' Association (LUMASA), Monrovia, Liberia
115. Malawi Law Society, Blantyre
116. Manifesto99, Freetown, Sierra Leone
117. Mouvement Ivoirien des Droits Humains (MIDH), Côte d'Ivoire
118. Muslim Human Rights Forum (MHRF), Nairobi, Kenya
119. National Coalition on Affirmative Action (NCAA), Nigeria
120. National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), Namibia
121. Network Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (NMDHR), Freetown, Sierra Leone
122. Nigeria Coalition for the ICC (NCICC), Abuja
123. Observatoire congolais des droits de l'Homme (OCDH), Brazzaville - Congo
124. Œuvre communautaire pour l'éducation pour tous (OCET), Bukavu, DRC
125. Open Society Foundation for South Africa, Cape Town
126. Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa
127. Ordem dos Advogados de Moçambique, Maputo
128. Organisation dénommée Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), DRC
129. Organisation Marocaine des Droits Humains (OMDH), Rabat, Morocco
130. Peace Pen Communications, Nairobi, Kenya
131. Peace Youth Association (PYA), Khartoum, Sudan
132. Prepared Society, Mombasa, Kenya
133. Promotion de la Démocratie et protection des Droits Humains (PDH), Goma, DRC
134. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) Guinee
135. Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) Senegal
136. Research and Advocacy Unit, Harare, Zimbabwe
137. Réseau Africain pour le Développement Intégré (RADI), Dakar, Senegal
138. Réseau des Associations des Droits de l'Homme du Sud Kivu (RADHOSKI), Bukavu, DRC
139. Réseau d'Initiatives locales pour le Développement durable (REID), Goma, DRC
140. Réseaux Provincial des ONGDH en RDC, North Kivu, DRC
141. Rights and Rice Foundation (RRF), Monrovia, Liberia
142. SADC Lawyers Association, Gaborone, Botswana
143. Samotalis Coalition of Human Rights, Hargeisa, Republic of Somaliland
144. Securitas Congo, Kinshasa, DRC
145. Sierra Leone Coalition for the International Criminal Court (SLCICC), Freetown
146. Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Programme, Freetown, Sierra Leone
147. Society Against Poverty and Hunger, Lagos, Nigeria
148. Society of Law Teachers of Southern Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
149. Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), Lagos, Nigeria
150. Solidarité des familles pour le développement (SOFADE), Bukavu, DRC
151. Solidarité féminine pour la paix et le développement intégral, Beni, DRC
152. Solidarité Paysanne pour la Santé et le Développement Communautaire (SPSDC), Bukavu, DRC
153. Sonke Gender Justice Network, Cape Town, South Africa
154. South African History Archive (SAHA), Johannesburg, South Africa
155. Southern African Centre for Survivors of Torture (SACST), Johannesburg, South Africa
156. Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), Johannesburg, South Africa
157. Synergie des Femmes pour le Victimes des Violences sexuelles (SFVS), Goma, DRC
158. Uganda Coalitionforthe International Criminal Court (UCICC)
159. Uganda National NGO Forum, Kampala
160. Union des femmes Paysannes du Sud-Kivu (UWAKI Sud-Kivu), Bukavu, DRC
161. West Africa Bar Association (WABA), Nigeria
162. Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Pretoria, South Africa
163. Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Harare
164. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Harare

Updated August 19, 2009

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