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ICC awaits explanation from SA on al-Bashir debacle

SA has until the end of December to explain why the Sudanese president was allowed to leave the country.

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

THE HAGUE - It will be up to the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to decide whether South Africa was in breach of its obligations to arrest and hand over Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

ICC spokesperson Fadi El Abdallah says the court is waiting to receive an explanation from the South African government.

LISTEN: 'SA had obligation to arrest al-Bashir'

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir in 2009, accusing him of masterminding genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, where an estimated 300,000 people were killed and more than two million displaced.

As one of the ICC's 123 member states, South Africa is obliged to implement warrants from the court.

But when al-Bashir attended the African Union summit in June he was allowed to leave the country, in violation of a domestic court order.

Abdallah says there is no finding yet on the government's failure to arrest and surrender al-Bashir after the visit in June.

"Now we cannot say if that was a violation by South Africa or not because it will be for the judges to decide on that."

The ANC decided at its national general council earlier this month that South Africa should withdraw from the ICC.

Phakiso Mochochoko of the court's prosecutorial arm said, "Personally I think that it will be a sad day if South Africa were to leave the ICC. South Africa played such a huge role in the establishment of the court."

South Africa has been given until the end of December to explain its inaction to the court, and depending on the judges' decision, the matter could then be referred to the UN Security Council.