South Africa must enforce the ICC arrest warrants against Omar Al Bashir

LHR, FIDH and ACJPS welcome the order issued yesterday by the High court in Pretoria to prevent the departure of the President of Sudan and wanted fugitive from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Omar Al Bashir. While unconfirmed information indicates that Bashir may have left South Africa after the Court rendered its decision, our organisations urge the Government to take all necessary measures to abide by the Court order in case he is still present in the country.

Bashir arrived in South Africa to attend the Summit of the African Union which is taking place in Sandton. Civil society, concerned about his arrival, called on the South African government to comply with its obligations under the Rome Statute of the ICC, to which South Africa is a state party, and arrest Bashir.

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.

On Saturday, the Southern African litigation Centre (SALC) brought an urgent application before the Gauteng Provincial division of the High Court when it was clear that Bashir had arrived in South Africa but the government had no intention to comply with its obligations. The application requested the Court to order South African authorities to take all reasonable and urgent steps to prepare to arrest Bashir pending a formal request for his surrender by the ICC. The government has argued that Bashir enjoys diplomatic immunity because he was invited by the African Union and not by the South African government. This argument has been rejected by the ICC.

In its interim decision, the High Court in Pretoria ordered South African authorities to prevent Bashir from leaving the country until it has taken a final decision on the case. The Court hearing will resume this morning in Pretoria. LHR, FIDH and ACJPS call on the South African government to enforce the ICC warrants and its international obligations, to respect the High Court order and to detain Bashir so that he can face the charges leveled against him at The Hague.

Our organisations recall that in a landmark decision rendered in 2014, the South African Constitutional Court affirmed the authorities’ duty to investigate international crimes in application of the principle of universal jurisdiction. The decision provides that South Africa may investigate international crimes committed abroad if the state where the crimes have allegedly been committed is unwilling or unable to prosecute them. Extensive and documented information has demonstrated Sudan’s unwillingness to prosecute those responsible for international crimes committed in Darfur, where civilians continue, as of today, to be the main targets of serious human rights violations.

For more information, see FIDH and ACJPS Questions and Answers on the ICC and Sudan

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