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Govt given 20 days to petition al-Bashir ruling

The High Court in Pretoria dismissed the government’s application for leave to appeal.

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

PRETORIA - Government now has 20 days to consider whether it will petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) directly to overturn the finding that its failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was unlawful and unconstitutional.

The High Court in Pretoria dismissed the government's application for leave to appeal, re-affirming its obligation to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Al-Bashir was allowed to leave South Africa in June after attending the African Union summit in Sandton, but before the court ordered his arrest.

Judge Hans Fabricious ruled that the full bench did not believe that that another court would rule in favour of the government.

"We do not hold the opinion that the appeal has reasonable prospects of success at all. President al-Bashir enjoyed no immunity from arrest or from prosecution under customary international law as a serving head of State."

The Justice Ministry says it will now study the judgment to establish whether it's worth petitioning the SCA.

The High Court also ruled that South Africa's domestication of the Rome Statute overrides any immunity offered to heads of state in respect of ICC warrants of arrest.

Judge Fabricius referred to legislation which superficially overrides any immunity provisions in domestic law.

"Immunities or special procedural rules which may attach to the official capacity of a person, whether on a national or international law, shall not bind the court from exercising its jurisdiction over such a person"

The Southern African Litigation Centre says the ruling has re-affirmed South Africa's obligations to the ICC.

The ICC has given the government until next month to explain why it failed to arrest al-Bashir.