Mali agrees to open prisons to ICC

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Mali has become the first African country agreeing to take in prisoners sentenced by the International Criminal Court, the tribunal said Friday.

"The International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Republic of Mali concluded an agreement on the enforcement of sentences of imprisonment," the Hague-based court said in a statement.

Signed by ICC Vice-President Fatoumata Dembele Diarra and Malian Foreign Affairs Minister Soumeylou Boubeye, the agreement said those convicted by the ICC could serve their sentences in Malian jails.

"The enforcement of sentences is a crucial element of a well-functioning justice system, and the ICC is grateful to every State Party that expresses its willingness to accept persons convicted by the court," said Diarra.

The world war crimes court is investigating seven cases -- all of them in Africa, namely in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Libya, Sudan and Uganda.

The ICC is yet to convict a suspect in any of its cases, but its first trial, that of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, has been completed and judges are discussing the verdict.

The court's founding Rome Statute says sentences must be served in countries willing to accept those convicted by the ICC and includes Austria, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, Britain and Serbia.

Until suspects are sentenced, they are housed at the ICC's detention unit which forms part of a Dutch prison in a seaside suburb of The Hague.

The ICC, which opened its doors to the public in 2003 is the world's first permanent tribunal to dealing with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

© 2012 AFP

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