Pretoria High Court: Government has 24 hours to explain why al-Bashir was not arrested

BY CHARL BOSCH - JUNE 24, 2015

The Pretoria High Court has ruled that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s swift departure last week was in direct violation of a pending court order against him, and that government failed to take any action despite previous promises that he would be arrested.

In passing his verdict earlier today, Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, said that the state had been aware of the order calling for al-Bashir’s arrest and handing over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) a day before the June 15th departure, before confirming State Advocate William Mokhari’s claims that the President’s plane departed from the Waterkloof Airforce Base while the ruling was being read.

“How was it possible that he could move to Waterkloof Airforce Base unnoticed, how could he have taken off, how could he have landed in Sudan in the late afternoon had he not departed at noon on June 15?” Mlambo asked.

“There are clear indications that the order of Sunday, June 14 was not complied with. The AU summit agreement did not confer immunity to al-Bashir as head of state – it was only offered through customary law. The ICC does not give heads of state immunity. Therefore immunity is excluded or waived under the Rome Statute. [Under this] South Africa is consequently obligated to arrest and surrender him”.

Mlambo stated that government’s failure to comply with the Statute in carrying out al-Bashir’s arrest, could lead to the crumbling of democracy “stone-by-stone” as “a democratic state, based on the rule of law, cannot exist or function if the government ignores its constitutional obligations”.

He has given government time till tomorrow to explain the reasons for al-Bashir’s sudden departure and also “invited” newly elected National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, to determine “whether criminal proceedings are appropriate”.

In a statement, Democratic Alliance (DA) Federal Chairperson James Selfe, said that the ruling was further prove of “President Jacob Zuma and the ANC-led government’s utter disdain for the Constitution” and that the middle finger had not only be given to international obligations, but also “to our Courts”.

“This episode will forever represent President Zuma and the ANC’s abandonment of constitutionalism and moral leadership, where the President and his government conspired to bow to the whims of a wanted warlord and human rights violator,” he said.