Judges concerned by violation of al-Bashir order

Pretoria - After instructing South Africa to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria said on Monday that it was of concern that the government had ignored an earlier order to prevent him from leaving.

“It is declared by this court, that the conduct of the respondent [government] to the extent that they failed to take steps to arrest and detain the President of the Republic of Sudan is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of SA,” Judge President Dunstan Mlambo read from his order.

“That the respondents are compelled to take all reasonable steps to effect the arrest of President al-Bashir without a warrant... in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, and detain him pending a formal request for his surrender from the International Criminal Court.”

Moments later, William Mokhari, for the government, stood up and told the court that al-Bashir had left the country. He had been in Johannesburg attending an African Union summit.

“I have been informed by the government that they have reliable information that President al-Bashir has departed from the republic,” he said, to chuckling from the public gallery.

There had earlier been rumours that he had left through Waterkloof Air Force Base.

He said the ministers of state security and in the presidency had told him the circumstances of the departure would be “fully investigated”.

Isabel Goodman, for the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which brought the arrest application, said this appeared to be a prima facie violation of the order handed down on Sunday, that the government prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country.

She asked for an affidavit from the two ministers placing on record when al-Bashir had left and through which port of exit.

Mlambo said it was “of concern” that Sunday’s order had not been complied with.

“It is of concern to this court that it issues orders and that things just happen in violation of these orders.”

He ordered that an affidavit be filed with the court registrar within seven days disclosing when and through which port of exit al-Bashir had left the country.

Mlambo said he would hand down reasons for ordering the government to arrest al-Bashir in a week.

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