A South African High Court in Pretoria on Sunday issued an interim order preventing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, from leaving the country over alleged war crime-related charges.
The presiding judge, Justice Hans Fabricius, while postponing the hearing of the case till Monday (today), urged the South African authorities to “take all necessary steps” to prevent Bashir from leaving.
The order was made upon a request by the International Criminal Court demanding the arrest of Bashir, who was first indicted in 2009. ICC had accused the Sudanese President of crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict which claimed hundreds of lives and displaced millions of people.
Al-Bashir, who was sworn in this month for another five-year term, had arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday for an African Union summit, chaired by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Reuters, the high court has ordered Bashir to stay until it rules on Monday (today) on whether he should be handed over to the ICC or not.
However, the legal immunity granted to all African Union delegates by the South African government has cast a doubt on whether the President’s arrest would be perfected.
ICC relies on police force of member states – of which South Africa is one – to detain suspects. Nigeria government had declined similar request in July 2013 when the embattled President visited the country.
Reacting to the development, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, accused the Hague-based ICC of applying Western justice to hunt Africans.
“The ANC holds the view that the International Criminal Court is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended. Countries, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe … continue to unjustifiably bear the brunt of the decisions of the ICC, with Sudan being the latest example.”
Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kamal Ismail, described the court order as of “no value.”
He said, “We contacted South Africa in advance and informed them that the President would participate and they highly welcomed his participation. What is being mentioned in the media is a propaganda campaign against Sudan,”
Al Jazeera reports that the acting international justice director at New-York based advocacy group Human Rights Watch, Elise Keppler, in a statement on Friday, said failure by South African government to arrest Bashir would amount to aiding crimes.
“Allowing President al-Bashir into South Africa without arresting him would be a major stain on South Africa’s reputation on promoting justice for grave crimes,” the statement read.