By Staff Reporter
Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir casts his vote at a polling station in Khartoum on April 13. Photographer: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images
South Africa’s High Court barred Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir from leaving the country while it decides whether to order the government to arrest him on war-crimes charges.
Judge Hans Fabricius made the interim ruling at a hearing in Pretoria, where the case is scheduled to resume later Sunday. The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which promotes human rights, had filed an urgent court application to overturn a government decision to grant immunity to all delegates attending an African Union summit that began Sunday in Johannesburg.
“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.”
Clayson Monyela, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations, didn’t respond to telephone calls or messages seeking comment. Al-Bashir’s attendance at the summit was confirmed by AU spokesman Jacob Eben.
As many as 300,000 people have died during an insurgency in Darfur that began in 2003, according to United Nations estimates. The ICC in The Hague indicted al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010. The president was sworn in this month for another five-year term in office.
“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.
Some AU members that helped to create the Rome Statute are failing to enforce the measure, according to Jakkie Cilliers, executive director at the Institute for Security Studies.
“A number of African countries were very active in the development of the whole Rome Statute, including South Africa,On the one hand, the African Union says nobody will be able to escape being held accountable. But on the other hand, when the ICC — which the AU’s member states helped create — acts, they step back.”