SA govt seeking legal advice on ICC ruling over Omar al-Bashir arrest

International Relation’s Nelson Kgwete says they are studying the ruling and its implications and seeking legal advice on available options.

FILE: Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir attending the opening session of the African Union Summit in Abuja in July 2013. Picture: AFP

PRETORIA – While the International Criminal Court (ICC) found South Africa acted unlawfully by failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, government says it remains committed to the principles of international justice.

The pre-trial chamber in The Hague on Thursday ruled that South Africa failed in its obligation to the court to arrest al-Bashir when he attended the African Union summit in Johannesburg two years ago.

The Sudanese president is wanted for crimes against humanity.

Judge Cuno Tarfusser says the court’s decision was unanimous.

“By not arresting Omar al-Bashir while he was on its territory, South Africa failed to comply with the court’s request, thereby, preventing the court from exercising its functions and powers.”

International Relation’s Nelson Kgwete says they are studying the ruling and its implications and seeking legal advice on available options.

He insists South Africa is totally committed to the principles of international justice.

WATCH: Judge Cuno Tarfusser reads the ICC judgment

Tarfusser referred to damning findings in South Africa’s High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal.

“It has now been unequivocally established, both domestically and internationally, that South Africa must arrest Omar Al Bashir and surrender him to the court.”

He says any ambiguity as to South Africa’s obligations in terms of the law have been removed.

“In these circumstances, a referral of South Africa’s non-compliance would of no consequence...”

Tarfusser says that decision makes it unnecessary to refer the matter to the security council to ensure compliance.

He says South Africa was clearly obliged to arrest al-Bashir.

“South Africa was not entitled to rely on its own understanding of Article 98 of the Statute [of Rome] to decide unilaterally not to comply with the court’s request for the arrest of al-Bashir.”

He added: “It, therefore, appears that the government of South Africa has accepted its obligation to cooperate with the court under its domestic legal framework.”

Amnesty International has described government’s conduct as a 'shameful failure', saying that no state should follow this example.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)