Al-Bashir not allowed to leave SA

Pretoria - South Africa will try to ensure that all points of entry and exit are told of Sunday's court order preventing the departure of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, until an application for his arrest is concluded.

''In so far is practically possible, reasonable steps will be taken to comply with the interim order, given the fact that we will now be preparing our arguments for the main argument tomorrow on the substantive issues,'' Justice Department spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said outside the High Court in Pretoria.

This was after Judge Hans Fabricius ordered that the Home Affairs Department ensure that all points of entry and exit be informed that al-Bashir is not allowed to leave the country. This is until the Southern Africa Litigation Centre's (SALC) application that South Africa arrest him, is concluded on Monday.

Al-Bashir is in South Africa to attend the African Union summit. South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been involved in efforts to broker a peace deal between South Sudan, and Sudan, with oil supplies between the two a sticking point.

The SALC had applied for South Africa to enforce two warrants for al-Bashir's arrest issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 and 2010 relating to alleged war crimes and genocide.

The ICC had ruled that diplomatic immunity did not apply to heads of state wanted for trial and issued a plea to South Africa to arrest him to stand trial.

Officials had to rush to court for Sunday's application, which started after 11:00. The government said it was not ready because of the short notice, having received papers at 10:30. 

It asked for an adjournment, but the SALC, fearing that al-Bashir would leave in the meantime, obtained an interim order preventing his departure.

During the adjournment, the SALC served Fabricius's order on the government departments cited, but officials at OR Tambo International Airport would not accept it.

The government departments are: the departments and directors general of home affairs, state security, international relations, and justice, as well as the national commissioner of police, the head of the Hawks, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, and the head of the priority crimes litigation unit of the National Prosecuting Authority.

When court resumed at 15:00, SALC's advocate Isabel Goodman asked Fabricius to vary the interim order to compel the government to notify all ports of entry and exit after OR Tambo International Airport officials to accept the order.

William Mkhari SC, took over from his colleague Isabelle Ellis and said he had rushed to the court without having had time to read the papers. He needed until Monday to prepare and for documents to be fetched by state officials for the ''sensitive case'' which applied to a head of state.

He said it would be difficult to prepare for the case, and at the same time ensure each and every port was notified of Fabricius's order.

He complained that al-Bashir's name was conspicuously absent from an application that affected his freedom of movement.

After hearing both sides, Fabricius ordered that the respondents prevent al-Bashir from leaving, and that Home Affairs ensure that officials at all points of entry and exit are notified, and that the identity number of the accepting official be noted.

Mhaga said the main focus for the government was to prepare for Monday's application. He said the government's position would be clear in its papers, which had to be filed by 09:00 on Monday.

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