Sudanese officials did not present al-Bashir passport - govt

2015-06-25 17:18
The plane of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir taking off from Waterkloof airforce base. (Alet Pretorius)

The plane of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir taking off from Waterkloof airforce base. (Alet Pretorius)

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Johannesburg - Sudanese officials failed to present President Omar al-Bashir's passport to the immigration officer at Waterkloof Air Force base, meaning al-Bashir's departure from South Africa broke protocol.

According to government's explanatory affidavit submitted to the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, Home Affairs department director general Mkuseli Apleni said the immigration officer on duty checked all the passports presented by a Sudanese delegation preparing to leave the country last Monday.

"After the receipt of the passports, the immigration officer first of all checked to determine whether any of the passports belonged to President Bashir. The immigration officer concluded that the passport of President Bashir was not amongst the passports provided," Apleni said.

"Thereafter the immigration officer further checked all the passports and noted that all the passports were endorsed for departure on June 15 2015 [last week Monday]."

Thereafter, the Sudanese plane with flight number SUDAN01 left the base. 

"It would therefore appear from the above that President Bashir departed from the Republic without his passport being presented to the immigration officer by the two Sudanese representatives who was accompanied by the protocal officer of Dirco [Department of International Relations and Cooperation]," Apleni said.

"The latter contention is fortified by the fact that verification on the passport details of President Bashir against the Movement Control System of the Department of Home Affairs reveals President Bashir indeed entered the Republic of South Africa but that there is no record of him leaving the Republic."

No passenger list for VIP planes

In the affidavit, Apleni said SUDAN01 was at the base on June 15 for "security and reasons and refuelling".

The Sudanese delegation contacted the Dirco protocol officer indicating there was a need to move from Sandton in Johannesburg, where the AU conference that al-Bashir had attended was held, to the base. The protocol officer then contacted SAPS protection services, who made the necessary arrangements to accompany the delegation to the base. 

Standard operating procedures dictated that flights are declared either a normal or VIP flight. 

"As to what procedure is followed in declaring a flight as either normal or VIP, immigration officers do not play a role. This is the function of the Department of Defence."

If a flight is declared VIP, the passports of passengers on board - excluding the crew - are presented to the immigration officer by representatives of the foreign state of the VIP flight, accompanied by the Dirco protocol officer.

"Neither the immigration officer nor the Dirco protocol officer are provided with a passenger list," Apleni said.

"It is pertinent to note that passengers on a VIP flight do not personally appear before the immigration officer on duty. The immigration officer checks the passports for applicable endorsements, visas etc, where after the passports are scanned and stamped without any further delay."

NDPP should investigate 

On Wednesday, the court suggested the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) investigate how South Africa violated a court order to prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country, allowing him to evade arrest for alleged crimes against humanity.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo said ignoring the principles of the rule of law would lead to democracy crumbling "stone by stone".

"A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function if the government ignores its constitutional obligations."

He was giving the reasons for the court's finding on June 15 that al-Bashir should be detained and handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Southern African Litigation Centre had approached the court on June 14 to order al-Bashir's arrest.

At the time, Judge Hans Fabricius ordered that al-Bashir not be allowed to leave the country prior to the matter being argued in court the following day.

Mlambo, flanked by Fabricius and Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, said South Africa is one of the 31 African states to have ratified the Rome Statute, which gave rise to the ICC.

The ICC had issued warrants of arrest for al-Bashir - one in 2009 and another in 2010 - for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

He said that in spite of repeated assurances that al-Bashir was still in South Africa during the hearing last Monday, the Sudanese president arrived home on June 15 at a time that indicated he would have taken off from South Africa at around noon, while proceedings were still under way.

He questioned why the South African government's counsel said it needed more time to prepare answering papers when the papers they received were not voluminous; how it was possible that al-Bashir could move to Waterkloof Air Force Base unnoticed; and for his plane to take off while the order by Fabricius the previous day was in place.

Read more on:    omar al-bashir

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