President Al-Bashir Leaves South Africa

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, center, posed for a group picture on Sunday at the African Union summit meeting in Sandton, South Africa. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE — GETTY IMAGES
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, center, posed for a group picture on Sunday at the African Union summit meeting in Sandton, South Africa.


JOHANNESBURG — President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, who faced arrest on international charges of crimes against humanity and genocide, slipped out of South Africa on Monday morning, dealing a serious blow to the International Criminal Court’s six-year campaign to bring him to justice.

Mr. Bashir’s private jet was seen flying out of a South African military airport near Pretoria, apparently unhindered by the South African authorities who had been ordered by their country’s High Court to prevent him from departing.

A lawyer for the South African government confirmed on Monday afternoon that Mr. Bashir had left, and Sudan’s minister for information told reporters that Mr. Bashir was aboard the plane and was expected back in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, on Monday evening. Sudanese officials had given conflicting information about his whereabouts during his two-day visit here, claiming at one point on Sunday that he had already left South Africa.

A South African High Court on Sunday issued an order calling for the authorities to prevent Mr. Bashir from leaving the country because of the charges against him at the International Criminal Court.

Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour of Sudan says his country’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, will leave South Africa as planned despite a judge barring his departure.

On Monday, after receiving confirmation of Mr. Bashir’s departure, the high court said that the government had violated its order — and South Africa’s Constitution — by failing to arrest Mr. Bashir. The judge ordered the government to explain the circumstances behind Mr. Bashir’s departure.

The case has pitted the International Criminal Court against the South African government, which had argued that heads of state had immunity while attending the African Union meeting. It is also being watched as a test of the reach of the criminal court, which lacks a police force to enforce its rulings and must rely on diplomatic pressure and the cooperation of nations to ensure that its rulings or indictments are enforced.

On Monday, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, added his voice to the debate, saying that the International Criminal Court’s warrant must be respected by countries that have agreed to its statutes.

“The International Criminal Court’s warrant for the arrest of President al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes is a matter I take extremely seriously,” he said in Geneva, according to news agencies.

In the face of recalcitrance by member states to cooperate and Sudan’s failure to extradite Mr. Bashir, the international court asked the United Nations Security Council in March to help it enforce the arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir. The Sudanese government has been the subject of a criminal investigation by the court for its actions during the conflict in Darfur, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.

In 2009, Mr. Bashir and three other senior officials were indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2010, the international court also charged Mr. Bashir with three counts of genocide.

However, the court, in The Hague, has struggled to carry out the indictment in the face of resistance, not just from Sudan, but also from African governments, which argue that the court has unfairly and disproportionately targeted leaders from Africa.

Courtesy of New York Times

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