Some sources in the South African government have revealed that it would have been unthinkable for their government to have arrested the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir as had been requested by the International Criminal Court. This emerged on Monday after it was announced and confirmed that the East African leader had landed back home in Khartoum despite a court order that had been issued by a Pretoria court giving clear instructions for the South African government to ensure that he does not leave the republic until the same court had ruled on whether South Africa should effect the requirements by the ICC to arrest Bashir.
After his disappearance from his place at the African Union summit in Johannesburg’s Sandton despite the assurances that had been given that the Sudanese leader would not leave South Africa before the end of the summit. Even though the government spokesperson on the issue who is also the state’s lawyer on the issue, Mr William Mokhari, promised the media a “full investigation” into how the Sudanese president had managed to fly home to Sudan despite the fact that all ports of entry had been alerted of the court order in Pretoria and that the departing plane’s manifest did not have President Omar Al-Bashir.
Responding to the departure of the wanted African leader, several organisations expressed shock and dismay at the action, or lack thereof, in effecting the court order. Dunstan Mlambo, the high court’s judge president said “It is of concern to this court that we issued orders and then things just happened in violation of those orders.” James Stewart, the ICC’s deputy prosecutor, said the court’s instructions to South Africa had been “very clear”, they had to arrest President al-Bashir! Netsanet Belay, from Amnesty International, on the other hand, only had the following to say about the fiasco, “It is completely unacceptable and shocking for South Africa, as a member of the ICC, to ignore its international obligations in this way and allow impunity free rein.”
However, some sources within the South African government argued that it would have been unthinkable for the South African government to have invited President Omar Al-Bashir to their country and then gone on and arrested him. “If we had invited him to the conference and then arrested him, can you imagine the reaction? South Africa’s ambassadors would be chased out and we’d be a pariah on the continent like it was during apartheid,” said one of the sources. It remains to be seen, however, if the South African government has taken the right decision in this instance.