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Botswana, African Union Disagree Over International Criminal Court Warrants

Botswana will continue to support trials by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of accused human rights abusers in Africa, despite opposition by the African Union (AU), says an administration official.

Government spokesman Jeff Ramsey says Botswana will uphold its treaty obligations as a signatory to the Rome Statute, which established the court, based in The Hague.

“If an arrest warrant is issued by the ICC, we would honor that if the circumstance arises in our country,” said Ramsey.

At its recent summit in Equatorial Guinea, the African Union resolved not to cooperate with international arrest warrants issued by the ICC against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The ICC accuses both leaders of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The AU maintains the ICC targets only African countries, a charge the ICC denies.

Botswana broke ranks with the AU, vowing to arrest the two African leaders if they enter Botswana’s territory.

Botswana disagrees with the AU’s position, said Ramsey.

“We don’t agree with the analysis that (the ICC) is just targeting Africa,” said Ramsey. “It’s also equally true that many of the situations at the ICC have been referred to the ICC by either African countries or others on the continent.”

Critics of the ICC accuse Botswana of undermining solidarity among the AU member states. Supporting the arrest warrants, they say, makes Botswana a party to decisions that they say fundamentally weakens African independence and re-establishes European dominance of African affairs.

Ramsey denied the accusation as unfounded.

“I don’t think we find it fashionable to go against the grain, but we do have certain principles, which the current government is prepared to uphold,” said Ramsey. “The [Botswanan] president has been quite clear in terms of his own stance that Africa must stand up for human rights and democracy on the continent. And these are principles that are part of the African Union.”