Summary: Fugitive Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir allowed to leave South Africa despite court order for his arrest

Pretoria, 15th June 2015: President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan has left South Africa despite an order by the North Gauteng High Court for his arrest. President Bashir was in the country to attend an African Union summit.

Bashir faces charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed in the Darfur region of Sudan. He has so far evaded liability in the face of two arrest warrants issued by the ICC, despite the obligation on ICC states parties, including South Africa, to execute the warrants.

An interim court order on 14th June compelled the South African government to take all necessary steps to prevent Bashir from leaving the country until the Court had handed down a final order. However, the government confirmed shortly after the final order was issued on 15th June that President Bashir had been allowed to leave the country contrary to the Court’s decision. The government argues that Bashir was protected by diplomatic immunity while attending the African Union summit, and could not therefore have been arrested.

SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) brought the case to the High Court along with Advocate Isabel Goodman and attorney Moray Hathorn of Webber Wentzel. Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s Director, said, “Being an organisation committed to the rule of law, SALC is encouraged by the Court’s order and the independence of the judicial process. The rule of law, however, is only as strong as the government which enforces it. Home Affairs have allowed a fugitive from justice to slip through its fingers, compounding the suffering of the victims of these grave crimes.”

SALC is now considering pursuing contempt proceedings against the South African government.

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