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S.Africa government to appeal Bashir immunity ruling

Published on 08/04/2016

South Africa said Friday it would appeal against a court ruling that it acted unlawfully in allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Bashir was not arrested while attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg last year as South Africa claimed he had immunity as the head of a member state.

During the summit, an emergency order was obtained from the High Court ordering Bashir’s arrest, but government lawyers admitted he had flown out of the country just a few hours earlier.

South Africa is a signatory of the Hague-based ICC, which wants Bashir arrested for alleged war crimes related to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal accused the South African government of “disgraceful conduct” over incident and ruled that the failure to arrest Bashir was unlawful.

The justice ministry said it would take the case to the country’s highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court.

The “government believes that the interpretation of legislation relating to immunity granted to a foreign sitting head of state needs pronouncement by the Constitutional Court,” the ministry said.

The decision by South Africa not to arrest Bashir sparked international condemnation, which was met with a threat from Pretoria to withdraw from the ICC.

The Sudanese leader has evaded arrest since his indictment in 2009 for alleged crimes in the Darfur conflict in which 300,000 people were killed and two million forced to flee their homes.