Su­dan leader home free

Af­ter al­low­ing him to leave, South Africa is ac­cused of flout­ing in­ter­na­tional law.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar Has­san Ahmed Bashir’s jet took off into Pre­to­ria’s sunny win­ter skies Mon­day, spir­it­ing him away from a loom­ing ar­rest war­rant and leav­ing be­hind a trail of ques­tions about South Africa’s re­spect for in

Ear­lier, as the media buzzed with re­ports that Bashir had f lown out of South Africa, Mokhari told the court that Bashir’s name wasn’t on a list of those who left the coun­try. Af­ter the court or­dered Bashir’s ar­rest, Mokhari ac­knowl­edged that he had been told by the gov­ern­ment that Bashir had de­parted.

Crit­ics said South Africa’s rep­u­ta­tion as a na­tion sup­port­ive of in­ter­na­tional jus­tice and hu­man rights has been shat­tered. Ques­tions were raised about the gov­ern­ment’s re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law and the courts.

“South Africa was one of the coun­tries that was con­sid­ered to be very much for in­ter­na­tional jus­tice,” said Ot­tilia Maun­ganidze of the Pre­to­ria-based In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies. “This just f lies in the face of what we had been led to be­lieve. It also speaks [to] South Africa’s as­pi­ra­tions in the U.N., in terms of whether it can be re­garded as con­sis­tent in its ac­tions, or whether it is a coun­try that can be trusted, when push comes to shove.”

Oth­ers ques­tioned whether the gov­ern­ment had in­ten­tion­ally mis­led the court, and whether it had been play­ing for time since Sun­day to al­low Bashir to get out of the coun­try be­fore a court or­dered his ar­rest. On Sun­day, gov­ern­ment lawyers told the court they needed time to pre­pare their case in re­sponse to an ap­pli­ca­tion from a le­gal and hu­man rights group, the South­ern Africa Lit­i­ga­tion Cen­ter, to force Bashir’s ar­rest. At that point, the hear­ing was ad­journed to Mon­day.

South Africa pre­vi­ously warned that it would ar­rest Bashir if he vis­ited the coun- try. But be­fore the African Union sum­mit, it de­clared that all lead­ers at­tend­ing the meet­ing were be­ing granted le­gal im­mu­nity.

The na­tion’s re­fusal to ar­rest Bashir was a ma­jor set­back for the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court, which ap­peared to have lost one of its most im­por­tant back­ers in Africa.

The in­ci­dent un­der­scores the grow­ing op­po­si­tion in Africa to the court. Crit­ics com­plain that the ICC, which is based in The Hague, has mainly fo­cused on pros­e­cu­tions in Africa (although the ma­jor­ity of such pros­e­cu­tions were re­ferred to the court by African gov­ern­ments). There is anger that the United States and some other coun­tries refuse to sub­mit to the court’s ju­ris­dic­tion, yet ex­pect African na­tions to do so.

Still, Pa­trick Smith, editor of the an­a­lyt­i­cal jour­nal Africa Con­fi­den­tial, said that although South Africa’s po­si­tion has changed, the court still has plenty of sup­port in Africa from those who had wit­nessed abuses in Su­dan, Congo, Kenya and other coun­tries.

“I think that these far­ci­cal de­vel­op­ments, with Omar al-Bashir putting in cameo ap­pear­ances and then hav­ing to flee like a fugi­tive, don’t do the court an aw­ful lot of harm,” he said. How­ever, he added, “Why does South Africa re­main a mem­ber of the court if it is not pre­pared to abide by its treaty obli­ga­tions?”

South Africa’s gov­ern­ing African Na­tional Congress, which has a proud history of fight­ing for hu­man rights and free­ing the na­tion from apartheid, said in a state­ment Sun­day that the ICC was “no longer use­ful for the pur­poses which it was in- tended.”

In a sign of how sharply South Africa’s po­si­tion has changed, the gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion ser­vice tweeted Mon­day that “no kan­ga­roo court shall ever dis­turb our po­lit­i­cal, gov­ern­ment and hu­man rights or­der.” The tweet was swiftly deleted.

Elise Kep­pler, an an­a­lyst on in­ter­na­tional jus­tice with Hu­man Rights Watch, said South Africa’s de­ci­sion was “deeply dis­ap­point­ing.”

“They re­ally blew a chance to show lead­er­ship,” she said. “It’s a huge stain on South Africa’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing. It com­pletely dis­re­garded the ICC di­rec­tive for him to be ar­rested and it flouted its own do­mes­tic [court] or­ders. It raises real ques­tions about what is go­ing on in South Africa right now.”

The ICC has not been able to ar­rest Bashir in the six years since he was first in­dicted be­cause it re­lies on mem­ber states to carry out its ar­rest war­rants. Bashir has vis­ited Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Dji­bouti in the past.

He had to de­part Nige­ria sooner than planned in 2013, af­ter a lo­cal hu­man rights group took ac­tion to force his ar­rest. In 2012, the African Union moved its sum­mit to Ethiopia, af­ter Malawi’s gov­ern­ment blocked his at­ten­dance.

The African Union voted in 2013 to pro­tect sit­ting heads from ICC pros­e­cu­tion af­ter the court’s in­dict­ment of Bashir and Kenyan Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta. The ICC has since dropped its case against Keny­atta, cit­ing the Kenyan gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to co­op­er­ate with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Ebrahim Hamid AFP/Getty Im­ages

PRES­I­DENT Omar Has­san Ahmed Bashir ar­rives in Khartoum, the Su­danese cap­i­tal, from Johannesburg. South Africa’s High Court had is­sued an or­der bar­ring his de­par­ture and a war­rant for his ar­rest.

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