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S.African government loses court bid over Bashir arrest

South Africa’s High Court on Wednesday denied the government leave to appeal against a court ruling that it should have arrested Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a recent visit.

The government allowed Bashir to leave the country on June 15 despite a court order blocking his departure, arguing that he had immunity from arrest during his visit to the country for an African Union summit.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes related to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The government maintained that its obligations to the African Union, which included granting immunity to attending heads of state, trumped the laws of the ICC.

But the High Court rejected the government’s bid to appeal the ruling that it had a legal duty to arrest the Sudanese president.

“We do not hold the opinion that the appeal has reasonable prospects of success at all,” Judge Hans Fabricius said in the country’s administrative capital Pretoria.

“The application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs.”

The Department of Justice said it was disappointed with the judgement and would pursue the case in a higher court.

“We will compile a substantive affidavit so that we can petition the Supreme Court of Appeal. We have 20 days to do that,” ministry spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told eNCA television.

South Africa’s failure to arrest Bashir sparked international condemnation, which was met with a threat from Pretoria to withdraw its membership of the Hague-based international court.

The ICC has ordered South Africa to explain by October 5 why it welcomed Bashir at the June summit.

Bashir has evaded justice since his indictment in 2009 for alleged crimes in the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur in which 300,000 people were killed and two million forced to flee their homes.