- South African judge bans Sudanese President from leaving the country
- Calls made for Omar al-Bashir to be arrested over alleged war crimes
- President al-Bashir is in Johannesburg for an African Union summit
- He is wanted by International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged atrocities
A South African judge has ordered authorities to prevent Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from leaving the country as pressure grows for him to be arrested over alleged war crimes.
Al-Bashir is in Johannesburg and today appeared for a group photo with other African leaders at an African Union summit in Johannesburg, wearing a blue three-piece suit.
He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after being accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict.
The Pretoria High Court has said al-Bashir must stay until it rules on Monday on whether he should be handed over to the ICC.
According to local media reports, Judge Hans Fabricius said: ‘President Omar al-Bashir is prohibited from leaving the Republic of South Africa until a final order is made in this application.’
The judge ordered the South African government to ensure that officials at all border posts enforce the court’s decision, according to Caroline James, a lawyer with the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, a rights group.
Kamal Ismail, the Sudanese state minister for foreign affairs, told reporters in Khartoum that al-Bashir had received assurances from the South African government prior to his visit that he would be welcome and was expected to return to Sudan on schedule.
He said the court order preventing al-Bashir from leaving South Africa ‘has nothing to do with the reality on the ground there,’ adding that ‘until now things are normal and there is no threat to the life of the president of the Republic.’
The African National Congress, which is South Africa’s ruling party, said the South African government granted immunity ‘for all (summit) participants as part of the international norms for countries hosting such gathering of the AU or even the United Nations.’
‘It is on this basis, amongst others, that the ANC calls upon government to challenge the order now being brought to compel the South African government to detain President al-Bashir,’ the ANC said, adding that African and Eastern European countries ‘continue to unjustifiably bear the brunt of the decisions of the ICC.’
Even before Sunday’s events, the African Union had asked the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against sitting presidents and said it will not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the court.
Al-Bashir has traveled abroad before and local authorities had not detained him at the behest of the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said South Africa is under a legal obligation to arrest al-Bashir and surrender him to the court. Her office has been in touch with South African authorities on the Sudanese president’s reported visit.
The charges against al-Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup, stem from reported atrocities in the conflict in Darfur, in which 300,000 people were killed and two million displaced in a government campaign, according to United Nations figures.
He has visited Malawi, Kenya, Chad and Congo in the last few years, all of which are International Criminal Court member states. The court doesn’t have any powers to compel countries to arrest him and can only tell them they have a legal obligation to do it.