South Africa min­is­ters ‘plot­ted to pro­tect Su­dan’s Bashir’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

The South African gov­ern­ment se­cretly plot­ted to en­sure safe pas­sage out of the coun­try for Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir de­spite an in­ter­na­tional war­rant for his ar­rest on war crimes charges, a news­pa­per re­ported on Sun­day.

Bashir, who is wanted by the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) for geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity over the con­flict in Dar­fur, was able to fly out of Pre­to­ria last Mon­day de­spite a court or­der block­ing his de­par­ture.

South Africa’s Sun­day Times news­pa­per, re­veal­ing what it said was a se­cret meet­ing of top min­is­ters to dis­cuss pro­tect­ing Bashir, said he was es­corted to his plane by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s own po­lice.

The ICC had called on South Africa — which is a sig­na­tory to the court — to de­tain Bashir while he was in the coun­try for an African Union sum­mit.

But se­cu­rity min­is­ters agreed at a meet­ing be­fore the Su­danese leader ar­rived that South Africa would “pro­tect Bashir by any means nec­es­sary — even if it meant flout­ing court rul­ings and un­der­min­ing the con­sti­tu­tion,” the Sun­day Times said, quot­ing a se­nior gov­ern­ment source.

Af­ter the meet­ing, which was at­tended by the de­fense and po­lice min­is­ters and the di­rec­tor gen­eral of Zuma’s of­fice, Bashir was given the go-ahead to fly to South Africa and “promised max­i­mum pro­tec­tion,” the source was quoted as say­ing.

Bashir left on the fi­nal day of the sum­mit in Johannesburg, even as the lo­cal high court was still hear­ing ar­gu­ments over an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion to force the author­i­ties to de­tain him on the ICC war­rant.

The Sun­day Times said word had spread that Bashir had been tipped off that he must leave “be­cause the case did not bode well for him,” and he was es­corted by mem­bers of the po­lice force’s Pres­i­den­tial Pro­tec­tion Unit to his plane at a mil­i­tary air base.

“When peo­ple were mak­ing noise on Sun­day that he must be ar­rested, we just told Bashir to re­lax be­cause there was no way he was go­ing to be ar­rested,” a se­cu­rity ser­vice source told the pa­per.

The South African gov­ern­ment has come un­der fire from the ICC, rights groups and sev­eral other gov­ern­ments over its fail­ure to de­tain Bashir.

A South African court last Mon­day gave the gov­ern­ment a week to ex­plain why it de­fied its or­der bar­ring Bashir from leav­ing.

Bashir has evaded jus­tice since his in­dict­ment in 2009 over the con­flict in Dar­fur, which erupted in 2003 when black in­sur­gents rose up against Bashir’s Arab­dom­i­nated gov­ern­ment, protest­ing they were marginal­ized.

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