Sunday, June 14, 2015

Al-Bashir will return after AU summit, Sudan insists

Sudan insisted President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to Johannesburg for a summit was proceeding normally and he would return after its main meeting, despite a court order Sunday banning him from leaving South Africa.

The South African court issued the temporary ban after the International Criminal Court called for the arrest of Bashir, who is wanted over alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur conflict.

“It is difficult to give details of President Bashir’s timetable, but he will return when the main session is over. This could be today or tomorrow. I will not go into the details,” said Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Ismail.

“Until now, things are normal and there is no risk to his excellency the president,” Ismail said at a news conference.

Bashir, who in March 2009 became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the ICC, travelled to Johannesburg for the summit on Saturday at the head of Sudan’s delegation in defiance of his indictments.

But the Southern African Litigation Centre, a legal rights group, launched an urgent court application to force the authorities to arrest Bashir.

There will be a hearing in Pretoria High Court later.

But Ismail dismissed the order.

“What is happening in the media has nothing to do with what is happening in South Africa,” he said.

Bashir had travelled after receiving an invitation from the AU and Sudan had contacted South Africa “at the level of the South African embassy in Khartoum and our embassy in South Africa” prior to the visit, Ismail said.

The ICC does not have its own police force, but relies on signatories to its foundation document, the Rome Statute, to arrest indictees.

“It is an internal issue and South Africa should deal with it in its own way, whether it respects its judiciary or not,” Ismail said.

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Bashir in March 2009 and July 2010 and he now faces 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the decade-old Darfur conflict.

ICC signatories have a duty to arrest Bashir.

The Sudanese president has since played cat-and-mouse with ICC investigators and supporters, frequently travelling to countries which are not signatories to the court’s statuses, unlike South Africa.

All of Bashir’s indictments relate to the western Sudanese region of Darfur, which erupted into conflict in 2003 when ethnic insurgents launched a campaign against his 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.


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