Omar al-Bashir defies court order and leaves South Africa

The SA govt confirmed the Sudanese president left the country despite a court order not to do so.

FILE: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Pretoria has ordered the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir after he left South African in direct defiance of a court order for him to remain in the country.

The Sudanese State Minister for Information says al-Bashir is expected to arrive in Khartoum at around 6:30pm.

Minister Yasser Youssef confirmed the president left the country shortly before midday; the South African government has also confirmed that the he has left the country.

Advocate William Mokhari, for the government, said "State Security Minister says the circumstances of departure will be fully investigated."

Al-Bashir made his departure from the Waterkloof Airforce Base at the start of legal arguments in the High Court in Pretoria over whether he should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges including genocide.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo instructed government to file an affidavit explaining how and when al-Bashir left.

Africa's relationship with the ICC has been thrown into the mix by his presence and sudden departure at the African Union (AU) summit in Sandton.

Leaders at the summit have been left picking up the pieces of their gathering after confirmation that the Sudanese president has defied a court order by heading home before the court can rule on whether South African authorities should meet their legal obligation to turn him over to the ICC.

The African National Congress is now officially a sceptic, saying the ICC that wants to try al-Bashir for genocide in Darfur is no longer useful as a court of last resort.

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Mokhari says al-Bashir's name was not on the passenger list for the aircraft that left the base.

He has argued that the government notice conferring immunity to AU summit delegates has not been undermined by the Rome Statute.

However the Southern African Litigation Centre has argued that South Africa, as party to the Rome Statute, has a legal obligation to arrest and turn him over.

Apart from having to explain to the court how al-Bashir was allowed to flee, the authorities also have to explain the failure of their diplomatic efforts to prevent him from coming here in the first place.

Advocate Isabel Goodman, meanwhile, has argued that heads of state ordinarily enjoy diplomatic immunity because of customary and internal law.

But she says al-Bashir does not enjoy that immunity because of provisions in the Rome Statute.

She says that law has been domesticated, and the government is bound by its provisions which can't be undermined by a notice.

The Institute for Security Studies says even though al-Bashir has left South Africa it's likely that the arrest warrants against him will be enforced.

The institute's Anton du Plessis says if the Sudanese president had not left the country now it would have been more difficult to flee later on.

"I think it was easier to fudge the situation and make it out the country while it was just an interdict against him leaving the country, it would have been much more difficult once there was an actual standing arrest warrant that was authorised by the court."

United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki Moon says the ICC's warrant for al-Bashir must be implemented by countries who have signed up to the Hague's Court Statutes.

The UN chief has told delegates in Geneva that he takes the charges against the Sudanese president extremely seriously.

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