South Africa: Government Loses Appeal Over Failed Bashir Arrest
South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal by the country’s government and ruled its failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was unlawful.
South Africa came under fire last year after it let Bashir enter and leave the country, despite a warrant for his arrest having been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009.
The South African government argues Al-Bashir was protected by the country’s Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act, which applies to current heads of state. However, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has dismissed the government’s explanation, accusing it of misleading the High Court over the whereabouts of Al-Bashir.
“The decision by the South African government not the arrest Al-Bashir was inconsistent with South African law. Therefore, the application is dismissed,” Judge Carole Lewis said.
Bashir visited South Africa in June last year to attend an African Union summit. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) filed an application for his arrest, but the government later allowed him to leave in violation of an ICC court order.
South Africa bound by Rome Statute
As a signatory of the ICC Act of 2002 and Rome Statute, South Africa is obliged to comply with ICC court orders. This means it should have made every effort to arrest Bashir in June and aid his extradition to The Hague. The country’s supreme court has dismissed the government’s claims that diplomatic immunity for acting leaders has any grounds.
The ICC has become a touchy subject in many parts of Africa, following claims it only targets African people and nations. Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame are among the East African leaders to have hit out at the international court in recent years.
South Africa has long been one of the court’s major supporters on the continent, but the case of Bashir put the country’s government in a tough position. Failure to act has resulted in heavy criticism for the country, but also removed it from a short list of much-needed ICC supporters among African nations.
By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released – DefenseImagery.mil, VIRIN 090131-N-0506A-347, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6058540