SA violates international law once, twice, three times - analyst

By Drum Digital
16 June 2015

South Africa had violated international law not once but at least three times with its treatment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, said Professor Bonita Meyersfeld from the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University.

“The first violation was when South Africa allowed him in in the first place and did not arrest him. South Africa doesn’t have to like it or agree with it, but they are obliged to arrest him to fulfil the obligations of the terms of the Rome Statute which they ratified.”

The second violation was that he was welcomed at the African Union gathering in Sandton, and the third was that he was allowed to exit the country in defiance of a court order.

South Africa could have avoided the scandal by warning al-Bashir that if he came, they would be forced to arrest him. “But it was not an accident, South Africa welcomed him.”

Meyersfeld doubted whether anyone would be prosecuted for allowing al-Bashir to slip out of the country, but the “reputational damage internationally” was significant.

Pan-Africanism

However, it was a different story at a regional level. “This has everything to do with the colonial gloss that characterises the work of the International Criminal Court, which is targeting Africa and is predominantly white. South Africa is under pressure and if it steps out of line then it gets whacked by its African colleagues.

"So regionally, there will be a quiet affirmative nod to the commitment shown [by South Africa] to pan-Africanism,” she said.

Africa’s appeals to the Security Council to address a bias against the continent when it came to war crime investigations had fallen on deaf ears, she said, and Africa was increasingly taking the matter into their own hands.

However, she stressed that this in no way “exculpated South Africa”.

Conservative policies

South Africa was increasingly shifting to more conservative policies, she said. “We are no longer a poster child for human rights. We are adopting a position on human rights that aligns itself with the likes of China and Russia which are the most unpleasant set of bedfellows.”

Earlier, the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on International Relations and Cooperation, Siphosezwe Masango, described the court application by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre to force the government to arrest al-Bashir as an “opportunistic act”.

Masango warned that the committee might have to advise government to re-look its membership of the ICC.

“In fact, it would be best if the entire continent follows suit. Although SA holds international governance structures in high regard, it is crucial that their programmes are not open to sinister objectives and hidden agendas,” he said.

Source: News24

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