Al Bashir’s escape: South African government should be held accountable for flouting court orders

The wilful non-compliance by the South African government of a high court order preventing the departure of Sudan President Omar Al Bahir is cause for grave concern for the rule of law in the country.

Sudanese president at Khartoum airport, returning from South Africa, 15 June 2015.

FIDH, ACJPS and LHR were alarmed that despite the court order preventing his exit, Al Bashir – who was attending the African Union summit in South Africa – was able to leave without being arrested and transfered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

We welcome the court’s decision that serves as a reminder that no one is above the law, and not even Heads of State may benefit from immunities before the ICC. Our organisations, however, condemn the South African government’s continued violation of court orders, which seriously damages and undermines the rule of law. We therefore call on the government to be held accountable for its lack of compliance with its national and international obligations,” declared our organisations

This non-compliance has a more devastating effect on the authority of the ICC and ignores the victims of international crimes committed in Darfur.

South Africa has turned its back on ten thousands of Darfurian victims, who have no remedy to obtain justice but from the ICC. Sudan authorities have proven to lack the will and capacity to genuinely investigate and prosecute those responsible for international crimes committed in Darfur and the rest of the country, said our organisations.

Al Bashir’s escape makes the Working Group of ICC States Parties on Non-Cooperation meeting today in New York all the more urgent. Our organisations encourage the Working Group to use this occasion to strengthen its strategy and to propose concrete actions to monitor and prevent instances of non-cooperation with the ICC.

We are encouraged by the high court’s demand of 15 June that the government submit an affidavit on the circumstances surrounding Al Bashir’s departure. The affidavit must be submitted within seven days of the court’s decision. The failure of the authorities to act on the international warrants and the court orders may open the government to contempt of court charges.

On 4 March 2009, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Bashir, for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the region of Darfur. A second arrest warrant was issued on 12 July 2010 adding charges of genocide. Bashir has managed to avoid arrest since 2009 despite the ICC’s arrest warrants which oblige all states parties to arrest him upon arrival within their territory.

→ See previous LHR, FIDH and ACJPS press statement "South Africa must enforce the ICC arrest warrants against Omar Al Bashir" 

→ For more information on Sudan and the ICC, read FIDH-ACJPS Q&A 

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