Johannesburg – The North Gauteng High Court has denied the South African government leave to appeal in the case pertaining to Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir. In a unanimous judgment the court indicated that the matter was moot and that there is no reasonable prospect of success on appeal.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for President Al Bashir’s arrest in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur after a 2003 insurgency. As a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC and having domesticated the Statute, South Africa is obligated to arrest President Bashir if he is found on South African territory.
President Al Bashir attended the African Union Summit, held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2015 bringing South Africa’s obligation to arrest him into play.
In a bid to ensure that South Africa adheres to its domestic and international law commitments, SALC brought an urgent application on 13 June 2015, before the High Court, seeking the immediate arrest and detention of President Al Bashir.
The Court issued an interim order on 14 June 2015 preventing President Al Bashir from leaving the country pending the finalisation of the matter which was set down for hearing the following day.
The Court reconvened on 15 June 2015 and after hearing submissions from all the parties, it ordered that President Omar al Bashir be arrested and detained for subsequent transfer to The Hague.
After handing down this order the Court was informed by the state respondents that President Al Bashir had already left the Republic in direct contravention of the interim court order issued on 14 June 2015. The Court, in its judgment, indicated that the failure to arrest President Al Bashir was unconstitutional and therefore invalid. The State took this judgment on appeal on 14 August indicating that, as a sitting head of state, President Al Bashir has immunity and that the High Court had misdirected itself.
The Court issued its judgment today, dismissing the application for leave to appeal with costs. The Court has effectively reaffirmed South Africa’s obligations under international and domestic law and made it clear that the government’s failure to arrest President Al Bashir was unconstitutional and therefore invalid.
“We stand by the High Court judgment as it is a strong contribution to the fight against impunity for egregious crimes” said SALC’s executive director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, “the State is free to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal directly and we will continue in our quest to ensure that South Africa does not become a safe haven for suspected war criminals.”
For more information contact:
Angela Mudukuti International Criminal Justice Lawyer, SALC; +27 10 596 8538; firstname.lastname@example.org