Bashir to defy court and ‘leave S.Africa today’: Sudan official
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will leave South Africa on Monday, an official in his delegation said, despite a court ordering him to stay as it decides whether to order his arrest over alleged war crimes and genocide.
A summit of African leaders has been overshadowed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) call for Bashir to be detained on long-standing arrest warrants over his actions during the Darfur conflict.
“President Bashir is still in Johannesburg and will leave today,” a member of his delegation told AFP on condition of anonymity, brushing aside the court case.
On Sunday, Judge Hans Fabricius ordered authorities to stop Bashir from leaving the country and said the court would reconvene at 11:30 am (0930 GMT) on Monday.
The Southern African Litigation Centre, a legal rights group, had launched an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to force the authorities to arrest Bashir.
South Africa is a signatory of the ICC, which has often been criticised for only targeting Africa leaders.
The European Union issued a statement saying it “expects South Africa… (to act) in executing the arrest warrant against any ICC indictee present in the country.”
The United States, which is not a participant in the ICC, said it “strongly support(ed) international efforts to hold accountable those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
“We call on the Government of South Africa to support the international community’s efforts to provide justice for the victims of these heinous crimes.”
At the summit, Bashir attended a group photograph on Sunday along with South African host President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who is the chair of the 54-member group.
Monday is the closing day of the summit.
“We met at 3:00 am this morning preparing our (court) papers,” Mthunzi Mhaga, South Africa’s department of justice spokesman, told ENCA news.
“We will meticulously argue for the application to be dismissed.”
– ‘Assurances given’ –
“We are not abiding with any… decision of any court,” Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour told AFP on Sunday.
“We are here as guests of the government of South Africa. Assurances have been made by that government.”
The ICC called on South Africa “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants” against Bashir, 71, who seized power in Sudan in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
The ICC indictments relate to the western Sudanese region of Darfur, which erupted into conflict in 2003 when black insurgents launched a campaign against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, complaining of marginalisation.
Khartoum unleashed a bloody counter-insurgency using the armed forces and allied militia.
The United Nations says 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict and another 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.
Khartoum, however, disputes the figures, estimating the death toll at no more than 10,000.