SA betrayed Darfur victims - Amnesty International

2015-06-16 11:10
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives for a group photograph of leaders at the 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrives for a group photograph of leaders at the 25th AU Summit in Johannesburg. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

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Johannesburg - The South African government's "shocking failure" to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was a betrayal to hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Darfur conflict, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

"South Africa’s role was clear from the day President Omar al-Bashir touched down in the country – he should have been arrested and handed over to the ICC to face trial for the war crimes he is alleged to have committed,” research and advocacy director for Africa, Netsanet Belay said in a statement.

“By failing to hand President Omar al-Bashir over to the ICC during his stay in the country, the South African authorities, under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, have through their inaction, aided Omar al-Bashir in his quest to avoid justice."

It was unacceptable and shocking for South Africa, as a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to ignore its international obligations and allow impunity free rein.

"Not only has it undermined the country’s commitment to the ICC, it has ridden roughshod over the rights and hopes for justice of all those people who were killed and displaced during the war in Darfur,” said Belay.

Al-Bashir had two warrants of arrest against him issued by the ICC, in 2009 and 2010. He faces seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and three counts of genocide.

Court order violated

On Monday, the High Court in Pretoria granted an application by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre that al-Bashir be arrested in South Africa to be handed to the ICC for prosecution. He had however left the country that morning, in violation of an order handed down on Sunday that South African authorities prevent him from leaving.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, who with Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba and Judge Hans Fabricius decided on the matter, said the government's failure to detain Al-Bashir was "inconsistent with the Constitution of the republic".

"The respondents are compelled to take reasonable steps to arrest President al-Bashir without a warrant... and detain him pending a formal request for his surrender from the International Criminal Court."

After the order was handed down, William Mokhari, SC, for the government, told the court: "I have been informed by the government that they have reliable information that President Al-Bashir has departed from the republic... to the Sudan."

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