Originally published in allAfrica.com
A South African legal NGO is “strongly considering” bringing contempt of court charges against government officials for allowing President Omar al-Bashir to leave the country on Monday.
The Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), the group which secured a court order for Bashir’s arrest, said in a statement after his flight from South Africa that it would decide on action after the government filed a court-ordered affidavit explaining why it failed to prevent Bashir from leaving.
On Sunday (June 14, 2015) a court ordered a wide range of government ministers and departments, including those responsible for controlling immigration posts and providing security for Bashir, not to allow him to leave the country while the court heard the application for his arrest.
By the time the court granted a detention order on Monday, Bashir had left, with the apparent collusion of South African officials.
In the SALC statement, its director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, said that “the rule of law … is only as strong as the government which enforces it.”
She said the Department of Home Affairs, which controls border posts, had “allowed a fugitive from justice to slip through its fingers, compounding the suffering of the victims of these grave crimes.”
The department’s officials have on a number of previous occasions defied court orders preventing individuals from leaving the country.
Bashir faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity arising out of the conflict in Darfur.
Issue arrest warrant, says ACDP
ACDP leader, Rev Kenneth Meshoe MP, in a statement released on Monday, called on the SA government to comply with its international legal obligations in terms of the Rome Statute by executing the long outstanding ICC warrant of arrest againstAl- Bashir.
Meshoe says: “The ACDP calls on government to comply with its international legal obligations in terms of the Rome Statute by executing the long-outstanding ICC warrant of arrest against Omar Al-Bashir, Sudanese President and war-crimes suspect. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute, and in 2009 President Zuma said that he would not stand in the way of the warrant being executed should President Al-Bashir visit the country. The fact that the African Union has subsequently passed a political resolution that no sitting head of state will be subjected to any international tribunal does not alter or override South Africa’s legal obligations in terms of the Rome Statute.
It must also be remembered that the United Nations estimates that up to 300 000 people died in the Sudan’s western Dhafur region, and that the victims of those war crimes have been crying out for justice for more than 10 years. The allegations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity resulted in the ICC issuing a warrant of arrest against President Omar Al-Bashir, which South Africa is obliged to execute. While the ACDP appreciates that South Africa is now in a diplomatic quandary, it is of its own making, as the Sudanese President should have been warned, as he was in 2009, that should he set foot in South Africa he would be arrested. The ACDP thus calls on government to execute the warrant and allow the legal process before the ICC to run its course.”
DA calls for debate
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, in a press release on Wednesday, says: “The unlawful decision on Monday to allow Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to depart South Africa, despite a clear High Court ruling prohibiting it, is an affront to the Constitution and the principles on which it is based.
“I have therefore written to the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) to request a debate of national importance, as per NA Rule 103, on the events surrounding Al-Bashir’s illegal departure from South Africa on 15 June.”
- See also analysis by Mike Pothier, Research Coordinator SA Catholic Bishops Conference: Disregarding the Rule of Law