SABC News - SAs hands were tied in al-Bashir arrest: Analyst :Monday 15 June 2015

SA's hands were tied in al-Bashir arrest: Analyst

Monday 15 June 2015 21:10


Political analyst, Professor Steven Freidman believes that the South African government's hands were tied in the matter involving the arrest of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010, accusing him of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region.

However, al-Bashir looked unlikely to be arrested as government had granted immunity to all attending the African Union summit in Sandton, north of Johannesburg.

The High Court in Pretoria earlier ruled that the failure to detain Sudan President Omar al-Bashir was inconsistent with the constitution, and he must be detained pending a formal request from the ICC.

Friedman says the judgement left South Africa between a rock and hard place. "You are dealing with court judgements, which are unimplementable. How do you prevent a foreign head of state from leaving the country? You are basically declaring war if you do that. There is a lot of hypocrisy involved in all of this. The Americans impose sanctions on President Mugabe, from Zimbabwe. They can't stop him from going to the United Nations."

Click below to listen to Friedman’s interview:

Political Analyst Siphomandla Zondi believes the whole furore could have been avoided. "It’s a serious dilemma we found ourselves in. Unless we had a game plan in the first place, about how we handle this case because we teetered on the brink of violating our domestic law by not effecting the court order. Unless we legally challenge it, which then means that we defer having to implement it, but at the same time if we effect it we are likely to disappoint the rest of the continent."

The African Union (AU) was livid over the saga, saying the bid to force South Africa to arrest al-Bashir is an indictment on the ICC and what it labels its collaborators in the form of Southern Africa Litigation Centre and other human rights organisations.

AU Chairperson on Political Affairs, Joseph Chillengi, says that the al-Bashir matter was deliberately meant to disrupt the important discussions taking place at the AU Summit in Sandton. "The entire civil society movement will defend the credibility and integrity of this union. And no kangaroo court shall ever come and disturb our political, economic, social and human rights agenda that we have."

Chillengi says the AU must move quickly to engage with the United Nations Security Council on the matter and ensure that the ICC is convinced that the bid to arrest al-Bashir lacks substance in law and is illegal in terms of the  UN Vienna Convention, which says sitting presidents enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Human Rights Activist, Hussuin Kharshoum, says the ICC is not the only institution where victims can get justice. "Domestic remedies need to be seen as implemented before you go to the region, to the African Court of Human Rights."

The High Court has ordered State Security Minister, David Mahlobo, to fully probe the circumstances behind al-Bashir's departure but for United Nations Deputy Secretary General, Jan Elliason, this is not good enough.

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