ADDIS ABABA - Heads of State and Government who have been meeting in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa, this week condemned the arrest in Germany of Rwanda’s chief of State Protocol, Rose Kabuye.
The AU regretted that the arrest warrant was executed despite their previous call to freeze the warrants until talks between the AU and the European Union (EU) are concluded.
After considering a report on ongoing discussions between AU on how to understand the principle of universal jurisdiction, the assembly urged member states in the UN, especially those in the EU to stop executing the warrants. It instead called on the world to review the principle of universal jurisdiction.
The principle of universal jurisdiction allows for internationally issuing indictments and arrest warrants against suspects of grave crimes worldwide.
But the AU accuses some individual European countries of abusing the principle and indicting some officials in African countries apparently to achieve their political goals.
“[The assembly] underscores that the African Union speaking in one voice is the appropriate collective response to counter the exercise of power by strong states over weak states,” African leaders reminded in their resolutions.
“[The assembly] reiterates its appeal to all United Nations (UN) Member States, in particular the EU States, to suspend the execution of warrants issued by individual European States until the legal and political issues have been exhaustively discussed between the AU, the EU and the UN,” the assembly partly wrote in its resolutions.
The AU assembly requested the new Chairperson of the bloc, Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, to follow-up on the matter of the European warrants and ensure that ‘it is exhaustively discussed at the level of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly’.
Last December, a group of African lawyers, the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), urged the world to agree on an ‘appropriate regulatory system’ to manage how international indictments and arrest warrants are issued.
The lawyers said the abuse of the principle of universal jurisdiction would amount to ‘clear violation of the sovereignty’ of countries.
Top government officials in Rwanda and Senegal have so far been indicted by individual European states under the principle of universal jurisdiction but in highly contested circumstances.
Rose Kabuye was arrested in Frankfurt in November last year while on official duties on the basis of an arrest warrant drawn up by French investigative magistrate, Jean Louis Bruguière.
The government of Rwanda condemned the warrants against Kabuye and eight other senior government officials saying they were politically motivated.
Kabuye, who was subsequently transferred to France and released on bail as she awaits trial, was allowed to return home for the Christmas holidays but returned to Paris last month.