|Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir. |
(AFP, File pictures)
Cape Town – South Africa is set to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) next week Friday to "account for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he attended an African Union summit in the country in June 2015".
Al-Bashir was wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes committed in Sudan's western province where at least 300 000 people were reported to have died.
"Next Friday, 7 April 2017, South Africa will appear before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to argue why the Court should not make a finding of non-compliance against the country for its failure to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir when he attended an African Union Summit in South Africa in June 2015," the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) said in a statement on Thursday.
SALC said that in December 2016, the ICC issued a decision to convene a public hearing under Article 87(7) of the Rome Statute to discuss issues relevant to its determination of whether to make a finding of non-compliance by South Africa.
"To this end, the ICC has invited South Africa to make written and oral submissions at that hearing, which takes place in The Hague, to decide whether South Africa failed to comply with its obligation under the Rome Statute by not arresting and surrendering President Omar Al Bashir to the ICC while he was on South African territory despite having received a request by the Court for his arrest and surrender," SALC said.
"If so whether a finding of non-compliance by South Africa and referral of the matter to the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute and/or the United Nations Security Council, are warranted."
Bashir was the first sitting president to be wanted by the ICC, and the first person to be charged by the ICC for the crime of genocide.
SALC sought leave to make amicus curiae submissions before the Chamber in January 2017. However, this application was opposed by the South African government who argued that the centre was not a neutral party and that such submissions should focus only on points of international law. This was despite the fact that SALC had brought the urgent application to have Al-Bashir arrested, back in June 2015, and had in-depth and factual knowledge of the case.
Despite government’s objection, SALC however admitted to make its submissions.
"SALC's submissions clearly demonstrate that South Africa had both domestic and international legal obligations to arrest and surrender President Al-Bashir to the ICC when he arrived in the country in 2015.
"However the facts show that South Africa flouted these obligations by actively facilitating President Al-Bashir’s escape, or, at the very least, by failing to comply with its duty to arrest and surrender him to the ICC", said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC's Executive Director.
SALC said the submissions would show how various government departments appeared to have colluded to facilitate the departure of Al-Bashir from South Africa.
"Had these Ministers wanted to ensure compliance with the interim court order, which sought to prevent Al-Bashir’s departure while the matter was being heard, they could have taken steps to inform their officials, in whose care the Sudanese delegation was entrusted," said Ramjathan-Keogh.
SALC was expected to attend the hearing, which was to be broadcast live from Court Room at the ICC.