Al-Bashir order served on government departments

2015-06-14 14:46
African leaders pose at the AU Summit in Johannesburg. Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir is among them. (Mahlatse Gallens, Twitter)

African leaders pose at the AU Summit in Johannesburg. Sudan President Omar Al-Bashir is among them. (Mahlatse Gallens, Twitter)

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Pretoria - The SA Litigation Centre (SALC) served a court order on home affairs and other government offices on Sunday to prevent Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir leaving South Africa until an application that he be arrested and handed to the International Criminal Court is heard.

''We have emailed the order to the respondents,'' said Caroline James, a lawyer with the SALC, which brought the application in the High Court in Pretoria for South Africa to carry out the arrest in terms of the Rome Statute.

''They were all made aware that the court orders that he is not permitted to leave the country and will wait for argument,'' said James.

Earlier Judge Hans Fabricius ordered that Al-Bashir be prevented from leaving South Africa while the South African government prepares its defence on why Al-Bashir should not be arrrested.

The application would be heard at 15:00.

Al-Bashir’s plane landed at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg just before 17:00 on Saturday. The SABC reported that South African government officials and Sudanese diplomats welcomed him at the airport.

He was in the country for the African Union summit being held in Johannesburg on Sunday and Monday.

Urgent application

The high court opened on Sunday for the urgent application, with some officials mentioning that they had left church to come to court.

Counsel for the 8 government respondents, Isabelle Ellis, asked for more time to prepare their submissions, because they only received the papers at 10:30.

She said she had spoken to the Justice Minister Michael Masutha on Sunday morning and was told Cabinet had made a political decision to host the African Union summit in South Africa.

She did not say whether this included inviting Al-Bashir, but could elaborate on this during her arguments in court.

The government intended bringing a legal expert to testify why it believes the warrants are unenforceable. She said they needed at least 3 hours to prepare submissions.

The SALC was concerned that Al-Bashir might have left by then. It wanted an undertaking that he would not leave in the meantime, and Fabricius granted the interim order.

‘South Africa is obliged’

On the sidelines of the application, James explained that because South Africa is party to the Rome Statute, it is obliged to carry out the request by the International Criminal Court. She said diplomatic immunity did not apply to heads of state in cases such as Al-Bashir's.

After the interim order was handed down, the SALC team was trying to put in place measures preventing that Al-Bashir's exit by sending the order to airport authorities.

Comment was not immediately available from the Department of Justice, after Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said all questions had to be directed to it.

The warrants were issued by the ICC in 2009 and 2010 for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The respondents are: the ministers and director general of the departments of Justice, State Security, International Relations, and Home Affairs; the national commissioner of police, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, the head of the Hawks, and the head of the priority crimes litigation unit of the National Prosecuting Authority.

Read more on:    au  |  icc  |  omar al-bashir  |  johannesburg  |  sudan

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