Sudan president prevented from leaving South Africa

Johannesburg, June 14 (IANS) In a seemingly unprecedented development, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who is on a diplomatic visit to South Africa, has been prevented from leaving that country by a court order for “crimes against humanity”.

The Pretoria High Court on Sunday issued an order preventing Al-Bashir to leave South Africa, the Independent Online reported.

Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricious issued an interim order preventing the Sudanese president from leaving South Africa, pending a decision of the court, to be made after an urgent application that he be arrested is made.

The judge made the order after granting the state a three-hour period in which to prepare arguments in response to the South African Litigation Centre’s (SALC) application that President Jacob Zuma and the National Prosecuting Authority arrest Al-Bashir on the order of the International Crimes Court (ICC).

The ICC issued warrants of arrest against Al-Bashir in 2009 for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity over the Darfur, Sudan, conflict.

The conflict claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, and left more than two million more displaced.

The litigation centre made the urgent application following the ICC’s order that Al-Bashir be arrested immediately he landed in South Africa to attend the African Union (AU) summit being held in Johannesburg, for which he reportedly on Saturday.

As a signatory of the Rome treaty, South Africa is obliged to arrest the president, but the AU has previously refused to heed the ICC call, accusing them of targeting African leaders.

Judge Hans Fabricius said Al-Bashir should not leave the country until an urgent application to have him arrested has been heard.

Al-Bashir is reportedly in South Africa attending the ongoing 25th AU Summit.

The ICC has two outstanding warrants against al-Bashir, wanted over allegations of anti-humanity crimes, Xinhua news agency reported.

Al-Bashir reportedly arrived in South Africa on Saturday night, but the South Africa government has not confirmed the news, according to Xinhua news agency.

South Africa, a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC, has said previously that Al-Bashir would be arrested if he arrived in South Africa.

But an unidentified government source said it would be ridiculous to arrest Al-Bashir who was invited by South Africa and the AU to attend the AU Summit.

The AU Summit, scheduled to start at 11.30 a.m., was postponed indefinitely. No reasons were given, said Xinhua.

The SALC, which filed the court application, said Al-Bashir is in South Africa.

“As far as we understand, he is still here,” SALC lawyer Caroline James said.

“We just want to ensure that he is arrested before he leaves South Africa,” James said.

Al-Bashir’s fate has become the focus of attention as a large of media contingent gathered at the Sandton International Convention Centre in Johannesburg to seek information about him.

The whereabouts of Al-Bashir remains a mystery. But in the convention hall, his name tag is seen on the desk.

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