State representatives attending CITES meeting granted immunity - Government Gazette

2016-05-30 18:24
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Cape Town - Representatives of countries attending the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will enjoy diplomatic immunity, the government says.

The conference will be held in Sandton in September.

According to the Government Gazette, the diplomatic immunity would be similar to the gazette that allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend the African Union summit in South Africa last year, unhindered by an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest.

The notice was published on Friday, and is in accordance with Section 6(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act.

It will also apply to the 67th and 68th meetings of the CITES Standing Committee.

In terms of the notice, in all matters relating to CoP17 - including SC67 and SC68 - South Africa will apply the relevant provisions of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, adopted by the General Assembly on February 13, 1946.

It would grant privileges and immunities to representatives of states and this included not having bags searched and being allowed to use sealed pouches.

They would also be immune from arrest, unless not arresting them impeded the course of justice.

Observers allowed to participate would enjoy immunity from legal process regarding what they say or write, "and any act performed by them necessary for their participation".

All participants entitled, under provisions of the text of the convention, to attend would be granted visas and entry permits where required, for free.

CITES is an international agreement between governments which regulates international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants in a way that it not detrimental to their survival.

Last June, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) applied to the High Court in Pretoria to have Bashir detained while he was attending the AU Summit in South Africa and for him to be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to be tried for alleged genocide.

The government was not ready to argue the case on that Sunday and asked for it to be postponed until the Monday. The court granted the postponement and an application by SALC for an interdict that Bashir not be allowed to leave the country until the court had ruled on the main application.

Beeld journalist Erika de Beer famously photographed Bashir's jet leaving while the court application was still underway. The government invoked the immunities and privileges it had extended to the AU Summit delegates in a Government Gazette in its defence.

The court ruled that Al-Bashir should be handed over to the ICC, but it was too late.

The government has since indicated that it will pull out of the ICC because it feels African countries are being picked on.



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