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Omar al-Bashir case to be heard in SCA today

Govt is challenging the high court’s finding that the failure to arrest al-Bashir was unconstitutional.

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

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's obligations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) will again come under the microscope when government applies for leave to appeal against the order to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

In June, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) successfully launched an application to compel government to arrest al-Bashir when he attended the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg, however, government ignored the court order.

The matter will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein this morning.

The government is challenging the high court's finding that the failure to arrest al-Bashir was unconstitutional.

It argues that a serving head of a foreign state, he enjoys immunity against arrest in South Africa despite a warrant for his arrest and a request for co-operation from the ICC.

Government argues that there has been no development in customary international law, which has abolished such immunity and continues to operate even in the context of international crimes.

It further raises questions about whether the court order was correct, which could expose South Africa to adverse international legal and diplomatic consequences.

It says neither the Rome Statute nor domestic legislation implementing it alters this legal position, therefore South Africa was under a legal duty to respect this immunity.

The SALC is opposing the application.

Al-Bashir is wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.