South Africa court blocks exit of Sudan's Bashir until ICC arrest hearing

Interim order made after application by rights group over arrest of Sudan president, accused by ICC of war crimes

A South African court has extended an order Sunday to prevent Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from leaving South Africa, where he is attending an African Union summit, until it makes a final decision on calls for his arrest on a warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague.

Judge Hans Fabricuis postponed the hearing until 11:30 a.m. local time Monday and urged the South African government to "take all necessary steps" to prevent Bashir from leaving the country.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant in 2009, accusing Bashir of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the conflict in Darfur. He denies the charges.

The judge said the court will decide whether a South African government cabinet decision to host Bashir would trump the ICC arrest warrant.

Bashir boarded a flight on Saturday to Johannesburg to head Sudan's delegation at the summit which starts on Sunday, presidential sources and the state Sudan News Agency said.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that Bashir was later "welcomed by South African officials and Sudanese diplomats on his arrival in the country."

South Africa is a member of the ICC, which does not have its own police force and relies on member states to detain suspects.

South African President Jacob Zuma’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) responded to Sunday's court order by accusing the Hague-based ICC of seeking to impose selective Western justice by singling out Africans.

"The ANC holds the view that the International Criminal Court is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended," the ANC said in a statement.

"Countries, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe ... continue to unjustifiably bear the brunt of the decisions of the ICC, with Sudan being the latest example."

The U.S. State Department said on Sunday it was "deeply concerned" by Bashir's visit to South Africa for the summit.

State Department spokesman John Kirby  said in a statement that, while the United States was not a party to the Rome Statute that sets out crimes falling within the jurisdiction of the ICC, "In light of the atrocities in Darfur, we call on the government of South Africa to support the international community's efforts to provide justice for the victims of these heinous crimes." 

A human rights group, the Southern African Litigation Centre, earlier petitioned the Pretoria High Court to force the government to issue an arrest warrant for Bashir.

With many African states accusing the ICC of selective justice, the ANC also called for a review of ICC statutes to make them apply to all United Nations members to ensure a "fair and independent court for universal and equitable justice."

Since the arrest warrant was issued, most of Bashir's trips abroad have been to non-ICC states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

But he has also been to member states that have declined to arrest him, such as Nigeria, which hosted him in July 2013.

"Allowing President al-Bashir into South Africa without arresting him would be a major stain on South Africa's reputation on promoting justice for grave crimes," Elise Keppler, acting international justice director at New-York based advocacy group Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Friday.

A South African government spokesperson declined to comment. Sudanese officials, however, said al-Bashir had been assured by the South African government that he would be welcome during his visit.

Bashir canceled a trip to Indonesia for a summit in April at the last minute. The plan to attend an Asian-African leaders conference in Jakarta sparked protests among rights groups, who want the president to be arrested.

Al Jazeera and wire services

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter