MALABO, Equatorial Guinea -- The body representing nations in Africa called on its members to disregard the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Moammar Gadhafi, an official confirmed Saturday, in a move that seriously weakens the tribunal's ability to bring the embattled Libyan leader to justice.
The decision passed by the 53-member African Union late Friday states that the warrant against Gadhafi "seriously complicates" efforts by the organization to find a solution to the Libyan crisis. African Union executive Jean Ping also told reporters that the international court is "discriminatory" and only goes after crimes committed in Africa, while ignoring those he says were committed by Western powers in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"With this in mind, we recommend that the member states do not cooperate with the execution of this arrest warrant," said the motion, which was shown to The Associated Press and whose passage was confirmed by Daniel Adugna, a spokesman in the African Union commissioner's office.
If countries in Africa abide by the recommendation, it opens the possibility that Gadhafi could avoid prosecution by seeking refuge on the soil of his neighbors.
That has been the case for President Hissene Habre, who is accused of thousands of political killings and the systematic torture of his opponents when he ruled Chad, from 1982 to 1990, before fleeing to Senegal. He has yet to face a trial even though Senegal agreed in 2006 to create a special court to try him.
Habre has become a symbol of Africa's inability to try its own, and on Friday the African Union attempted to address this in a parallel decision, expressing its frustration with Senegal's foot-dragging, which has included claims that the trial would be too expensive.
A total of 31 states in Africa are signatories to the International Criminal Court, representing nearly a third of the nations where the mandate applies. However, there has been increasing malaise in Africa over the court, which has been denounced by the continent's entrenched rulers as an instrument of neocolonialism.
Diplomats present during this week's African Union summit in Malabo said that although they support the court, they agree with the union's claim that the warrant complicates efforts to end the crisis in Libya.