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Confusion surrounds Omar al-Bashir's whereabouts

There are conflicting reports this morning over whether Omar al-Bashir has left South Africa or not.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (C), Congos president Denis Sasso-Nguesso (R) and Prime Minister of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Abdelkader Taleb Oumar (L) pose during a photo call at the 25th African Union Summit in Sandton South Africa on 14 June, 2015. Picture: AFP.

PRETORIA - There's still confusion this morning on the whereabouts of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir following conflicting reports about whether or not he's left the country.

Bashir has been in South Africa attending the African Union (AU) Summit in Sandton, but his visit has landed South Africa in a difficult diplomatic situation.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued a warrant of arrest for him for crimes against humanity, and on Sunday the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) secured an interim order to try and stop him from leaving with the ultimate aim of forcing him to stand trial.

The centre said clarity is still needed about whether South Africa is obliged to honour its commitment to the ICC or if a Cabinet decision granting him immunity is legitimate.

SALC lawyer Caroline James said South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute and its domestic laws compel the country to act against the Sudanese president.

"We've implemented the Rome Statute into South African law, and so our own legislation obliges South Africa to cooperate with the ICC. That cooperation includes arresting fugitives from that court."

James said South Africa needs to safeguard its reputation.

"It's important for the South African public to realise that this is about the victims of the conflict in Sudan as well as ensuring that South Africa doesn't become a haven for perpetrators of human rights violations."

However, the African National Congress (ANC) had called for the state to oppose the application and said the ICC no longer serves the purpose it was created for.

LISTEN: Judge Hans Fabricius orders Bashir not to leave South Africa

COURT HEARING

The Justice Department has said a court hearing into whether the Sudanese president can be detained in South Africa for crimes against humanity will go ahead despite ongoing confusion as to whether he has left the country.

Bashir is wanted for war crimes and has evaded arrest since 2009.

By Sunday night there was still no clarity on his whereabouts.

The department's Mthunzi Mhaga said they're prepared for today's hearing.

"As the legal team we're proceeding with our preparations. We hope that before 11:30am today, we'll have feedback from out Director General to provide to the court."

The department also said the difficulty with a court order preventing al-Bashir from leaving South Africa is getting it to immigration officials at the ports of entry and exits across the country in time.

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