President Omar al’Bashir of Sudan Arrested in South Africa

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Omar al'Bashir

President Omar al’Bashir of Sudan is the only sitting president with an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). He was in South Africa for the African Union meeting and has now been barred from leaving until a South African court rules on the case before it regarding the ICC arrest warrant.

Prior to attending the AU meeting, al’Bashir was aware of the charges against him and the warrant for his arrest. South Africa had however indicated that it would accord diplomatic immunity to attending heads of state. This must have given him the confidence to attend the summit despite the warrant that was issued for his arrest. Having attended the meeting, he is now barred from leaving South Africa until a South African court can rule on the case of his arrest.

President Omar al’Bashir is accused of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. These crimes were alleged to have been perpetrated during the Dafur crises in which over 400,000 people were said to have died and over 2 million displaced.

South Africa now finds itself in a very difficult position. There is mounting pressure from the international community for them to arrest al’Bashir and hand him over to ICC in accordance with ICC laws since it is a member of ICC. On the other hand, members of the AU will not look kindly on South Africa handing over al’Bashir to ICC. First, it will appear as if the government of South Africa tricked al’Bashir into coming for the AU summit only for them to arrest him and hand him over to ICC. Furthermore, African countries have not been happy about the way ICC has targeted African leaders and feel that the ICC is not just in its conduct.

The case in court was brought before it by Southern Africa Litigation Centre which is a human rights group based in South Africa. They are calling for the arrest of al’Bashir. The court ruling has been postponed to today the 15th of June 2015. Will South Africa bow to pressure from the U.S, ICC and other members of the international community or will they risk the wrath of the international community and tow the AU line?

The world awaits the unraveling of this with rapt attention.

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