Tuesday, May 18, 2021

SA gov’t helps Al Bashir evade ICC arrest

Sudanese President Omar al ÔÇô Bashir on Monday jetted out of South Africa while the Northern High Court in Pretoria was dealing with a matter involving his impending arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over human atrocity crimes.

His sudden departure, despite a temporary court ruling ordering him to be grounded pending a court decision, has been largely seen as aided and abetted by the ruling African National Congress.

On Sunday, the Pretoria High Court temporarily barred al-Bashir from leaving South Africa pending the outcome of an application order that would oblige Pretoria to execute an ICC warrant for his arrest.

As the High Court in Pretoria adjourned shortly before noon on Monday, there was already word that Al-Bashir had jetted out of the country. The Times newspaper posted an online photograph purportedly showing al ÔÇô Bashir’s aircraft leaving South Africa.

The Sudanese President is wanted by the ICC for alleged atrocities including murder, rape, torture, extermination and forcibly moving large numbers of in Darfur during a five-year counter-insurgency campaign from 2003.The conflict resulted in the deaths of more than 300 000 people and displacement of 2.5 million others internally.

The ANC’s national spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, on Monday told The Telegraph outside the Pretoria High Court that┬á┬á al-Bashir was invited to the summit in Johannesburg at the behest of the African Union so the South African government could not possibly arrest him while he enjoyed immunity like other Heads of State ÔÇô immunity which was granted and gazetted by the South African government ahead of the AU summit that ended in Johannesburg on Monday.

“The immunity granted to Heads of State is in line with international practice. As the ANC, we are against the arrest of President Omar al-Bashir. It is international that Heads of State do enjoy international immunity at gatherings like these. We have had cases at the United Nations where Heads of State have enjoyed immunity to attend such meetings,” the ANC national spokesperson told The Telegraph during a court adjournment.

The South African Justice Department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga declined to grant an interview saying the courts must be allowed to do their work.

Sabir Ibrahim of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement told this publication outside court that his organization was all the more eager to see President al-Bashir brought to book for atrocities committed against victims in Darfur .

“The African Union is dragging its feet in addressing and bringing to book those who committed crimes against humanity like al-Bashir. Since 2004, 2 million Darfur inhabitants were forced into exile while 300 000 were killed.┬á More than 200 000 others were displaced in Ethiopia and southern Sudan while half a million were internally displaced,” Ibrahim told The Telegraph.

A researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria warned last week that welcoming Al Bashir to the AU summit would be detrimental for the ICC as well as for South Africa.

“In general terms, Heads of states of member states are invited to the summit by the AU. As such, Al Bashir should have received an invitation. Considering his outstanding warrant of arrest at the ICC, and that which was issued by a South African Court, including his recent urgent reaction to return from Nigeria, fearing arrest following Civil society action, and his inability to travel to Indonesia, utterances from states like Malawi and Botswana, were he to come to South Africa, the SA government has an obligation to arrest him. This would be in line with SA’s Constitutional and legal obligations, as enshrined in the ICC Act and surrender him to the ICC.

This would be jubilation for international criminal justice supporters. However, enforcement of the law is an obligation, but execution or non-execution of this obligation remains to be seen and a major challenge.   Obviously if he came to SA and was not arrested, the ICC would again be seen as a toothless tribunal that issues warrants of arrests that are not recognised and adhered to by the members.

This would be a shame for South Africa. Best option, if he arrives, he must be arrested or he better not come to South Africa at all in order to avoid embarrassment on his side and on that of the SA government,” warned Senior Researcher at the Institute for Security Studies – Transnational Threats and International Crime Division in Pretoria, Jemina Kariri.

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