SUDANESE President Omar al-Bashir is still in South Africa, State Information Minister Yasser Youssef said, before a court there decides on whether to order al-Bashir’s arrest on war-crimes charges.
Mail and Guardian Africa
“Once he moves from there we will release a statement,”Youssef said by phone Monday from the capital, Khartoum.
His comments dispute reports Sunday that al-Bashir had fled South Africa to avoid arrest.
That he stayed put has placed South Africa in a fix, analysts say. It will have to defy its own judiciary or risk the wrath of other African nations if the High Court orders the government to arrest him.
Judge Hans Fabricius told the government Sunday to keep al- Bashir in South Africa while he decides whether to order the Sudanese leader’s arrest for two International Criminal Court (ICC) indictments for alleged atrocities in the Darfur region.
Al- Bashir arrived to attend an African Union summit in Johannesburg on June 13, after President Jacob Zuma’s administration published a notice granting all attendees immunity.
A signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, South Africa’s obligations to arrest al-Bashir contradict the pledge it made to the AU, said Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa.
The court will resume hearing arguments at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.
“It’s an absolute lose-lose situation,” Kotze said by phone from Pretoria, the capital. “They are really in a fix. If they do arrest him, they will probably be criticized by most other African countries. I think they will probably let him go.”
Gauteng High Court Judge President Dunstan Mlambo convened a full bench to hear the case, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said in an interview.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) said on its Twitter account Sunday that it “holds the view that the International Criminal Court is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended.”
The court case was brought by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, a Johannesburg-based human-rights group.
Al-Bashir will stay in South Africa until the end of the summit, Rabie Abdel Ati, senior official in Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party, said late Sunday in a text message.
“Immunity of all presidents participating in summit as declared by South African government will make the court order void,” he said.
Al-Bashir’s plane has been moved to Waterkloof air force base in Pretoria from O.R. Tambo International Airport, east of Johannesburg, South Africa’s Talk Radio 702 reported Monday, without saying how it got the information.
Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations, didn’t respond to telephone calls or messages seeking comment.
“Al-Bashir is a fugitive from justice,” Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for Africa, said in an e-mailed statement.
South Africa should “spare no effort” in seeking to arrest the president, Sidiki Kaba, head of the Assembly of States to the Rome Statute of the ICC, said Saturday in a statement on the court’s website.
The government will seek to avoid the political complications that would stem from detaining al-Bashir, according to Shadrack Gutto, a law professor at the University of South Africa.
“The courts can rule that he shouldn’t leave,” Gutto said by phone from Pretoria. “It’s the government that will have to prevent him from leaving. I don’t see the government arresting him. The matter will go on appeal and by the time it is resolved, he will have left the country.”