Bashir gets away again but who looks worse: ICC or South Africa?

17 June 2015 by Stephanie van den Berg, The Hague (The Netherlands)

The six-year cat-and-mouse game between Omar al-Bashir and the International Criminal Court continues. On Monday, the Sudanese president fled Johannesburg, where he was attending an African Union summit, despite a Pretoria court order for him to stay in the country while local judges ruled on if he should be arrested and extradited to The Hague.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at a press conference in Sudan in July 2008 (Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA)
Image caption: 
South African President Jacob Zuma and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir at a press conference in Sudan in July 2008 (Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA)

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir in 2009. He is wanted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur [IJT-120].

After it emerged Monday that Bashir had left South Africa in spite of the open situation, the Pretoria high court slammed local authorities’ actions as unconstitutional and ordered his arrest. The South African government has maintained that the Sudanese president was entitled to immunity as a head of state attending an AU summit.

In the great escape’s aftermath, commentators are divided on who took the bigger hit: the ICC because it showed no real power in getting states to cooperate or South Africa, now facing international condemnation.

“South Africa is one of the most advanced countries when we talk about the rule of law, about the respect of international law. If the South African government lets [Bashir] go, this is not good for the International Criminal Court,” international law expert Dov Jacobs told Justice Hub.

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