Romeo Gacad / AFP / Getty Images

African Union chief Mugabe says ICC unwelcome in Africa

Some African leaders say the International Criminal Court has unfairly targeted African heads of state

Zimbabwean leader and African Union chairman Robert Mugabe on Tuesday harshly criticized the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Sudan's president dodged an international arrest order by leaving early from a meeting of the continent's leaders in South Africa, a news agency reported.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, on Monday from South Africa, where a court had instructed he be arrested, but only after Bashir had taken off in his plane. He is wanted by the ICC for war crimes allegations, including several charges of genocide, linked to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

The African News Agency, which is based in South Africa, quoted Mugabe as saying at the late-night close of the African Union summit in Johannesburg that the ICC is not wanted in Africa.

"This is not the headquarters of the ICC; we don't want it in this region at all," said Mugabe, who is chairing the 54-member African Union for one year.

The comment was the latest jab at the court by an African leader. Many politicians on the continent accuse the ICC of disproportionately targeting African heads of state in its indictments.

The ICC denies any discrimination and points out that most cases are brought to the court by African countries themselves. According to the court's principle of complementarity, the ICC only has jurisdiction when a local judiciary is deemed unwilling or unable to carry out justice.

Mugabe also said that South African President Jacob Zuma vowed "he would not allow" police to arrest Bashir in South Africa, the African News Agency reported.

Though South Africa is a signatory to the statute that established the ICC, the African Union said delegates to the summit in Johannesburg, as with any of the group's summits, would have immunity from arrest or prosecution.

A spokesman for Zuma's office referred questions about Bashir to a government spokeswoman, who was not immediately available on Tuesday.

Nick Kaufman, a lawyer representing several victims in the Darfur case at the ICC, called on the court's prosecutor Tuesday to ask judges for a formal "finding of non-compliance" by South Africa for failing to arrest Bashir and to have the matter reported to the United Nations Security Council.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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