'ICC is guilty of infringing SA's rights'

Govt says the ICC is guilty of an infringement of SA’s rights in relation to the Omar al-Bashir debacle.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of International Relations says government has told the International Criminal Court in the Hague that it believes the court is guilty of a serious infringement of South Africa's rights in relation to the Omar al-Bashir case.

Government has now lodged its submission with the court after it was asked to explain why it failed to arrest the Sudanese leader while he was attending the African Union summit earlier this year in Sandton.

Government says it was not allowed to present legal arguments during the application to have al-Bashir arrested and thus South Africa's rights were violated.

In its submission government says South Africa approached the court to ask to consult with it on this issue because it faced conflicting obligations arising from the immunities given to serving heads of state and the demands of judges.

LISTEN: How SA will be viewed in the al-Bashir debacle.

But it says what was supposed to be a diplomatic and political process then morphed into a judicial process and South Africa was not given a chance to speak at that point.

As a result, government says the country's rights as a state party were violated and the court has acted against the letter and the spirit of the Rome Statute.

It also says South Africa will now approach the Secretariat of the Assembly of state parties to the Rome Statute to seek clarity about this type of situation.

Furthermore, in its submission government says it needs more time to consider this issue, because of the conflicting legal principles involved both in international law, and in domestic law.

South Africa is also going to ask the political body that oversees the ICC to ask for clarity on how to deal with a situation where a serving head of state is supposed to be arrested despite having immunity.

Government also says it remains committed to international justice and that it will still cooperate with the court.

The North Gauteng High Court has already said that the domestication of the Rome Statute into South African domestic law over-rides any immunity that al-Bashir could claim to have.