Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir hides behind the AU’s skirt

Wanted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, charged with war crimes has been avoiding arrest for the last six year. He has received protection from various of his AU friends and this past week was no different.

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WANTED: 71-year-old Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Photo: Provided

With war crime charges and a number of genocide counts against him, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir fled from South Africa as its government turned a blind eye.

As the host of the 25th African Union Summit, South Africa made themselves ready to receive 54 state leaders last weekend. Amongst these leaders was al-Bashir, who evidently has had two warrants out for his arrest since 2009. The International Criminal Court (ICC) alleged that al-Bashir committed war crimes against Darfur, leaving 300 000 people dead and over 2.5 million displaced. As South Africa is a signatory of the ICC, the government was called upon to meet their obligations in arresting Sudan’s president with his entering the country. The African National Congress (ANC) manoeuvred a gazette in which the AU meeting attendees were granted immunity- more specifically al-Bashir. Al-Bashir was given the freedom by South African government to roam in the country with an alleged promise from President Jacob Zuma that he would not be arrested by South African police. The wanted president attended the summit on Sunday in Sandton, Johannesburg.

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AU DISOBEDIENCE: 25th AU summit host, South African president Jacob Zuma (left) sitting next to the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who has had two warrants out for his arrest since 2009. Photo: Provided

During the summit African states, including South Africa, accused the ICC of only targeting African political leaders, while disregarding the crimes committed by leaders of the Middle-East. The ANC called for a review of the ICC as it “is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was intended.” According to the African News Agency Zimbabwean president and AU chairman, Robert Mugabe said “[t]his is not the headquarters of the ICC; we don’t want it in this region at all,” after the Summit on Sunday night.

The ICC responded to the accusations, denying any discrimination arguing that most cases are brought to the ICC by African countries.

After not meeting their obligation to arrest al-Shabir, the human rights promoter, Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), filed an urgent application at the Pretoria High Court against the government to overturn its immunity grant decision. Judge Hans Fabricuis issued an interim order to prevent the accused president from leaving the country. Fabricuis urged the South African government on Monday to use all its power to keep al-Bashir in the country until the SALC’s application was heard. Fabricuis said if he left the country, South Africa’s international reputation will be at stake.

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CAUGHT FLEEING: President al-Bashir’s plane as it took-off from Waterkloof Airforce Base on Monday afternoon. Photo: Alet Pretorius.

As the court was in session the charged president’s plane took off from Waterkloof Airforce Base outside Pretoria. Questions linger whether the South African government had a hand in al-Bashir’s escape as no one can land or depart from the base without the authorities’ permission. After Al-Bashir’s mysterious departure Judge President Dustan Mlambo ordered government to file an affidavit to explain how and when the Sudanese president left the country. Advocate for the state, William Mokhari said al-Bashir’s name was not on the passenger list and further conveyed that State Security Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, said “the circumstances of departure will be fully investigated.”

Since al-Bashir’s illegal departure from South Africa to Khartoum, Sudan on Monday a formal application of non-compliance was issued against South African government for failing to keep al-Bashir in the country with the intent to report the matter to the UN Security Council. Meanwhile South Africans take to social media to question the decisions of their leadership as South Africa’s written word is questioned internationally.

Published: The News Hub on 18 June 2015

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