ICC to probe South Africa’s refusal to arrest Bashir
The International Criminal Court will hold a public hearing next April to probe whether South Africa failed its duty in refusing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the court said Thursday.
The announcement follows a dispute last year when Bashir attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg despite facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes and genocide.
The Hague-based court’s Pre-Trial Chamber is “convening a public hearing on April 7, 2017, for the purposes of a determination… on the compliance by South Africa with the Court’s request” to arrest and surrender Bashir, it said in a statement.
Judges invited submissions by the court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, South Africa and the United Nations on the issue, it added.
Pretoria refused to arrest Bashir when he attended the continent-wide summit in mid-2015, claiming that he had immunity as the head of an AU member state.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the world war crimes court which wants Bashir arrested for alleged crimes related to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.
South Africa’s own Supreme Court of Appeal has accused President Jacob Zuma’s government of “disgraceful conduct” over Bashir’s visit and ruled that the failure to arrest the Sudanese leader was unlawful.
The row with the ICC saw Pretoria in October announce its withdrawal from the court, a major blow to the institution set up to try the world’s worst crimes.
The South African government at the same time also dropped a legal battle on the issue after facing a possible defeat in its highest Constitutional Court.
“Given that domestic proceedings in South Africa are now concluded, South Africa shall be heard about a possible finding of non-compliance” for failing to arrest Bashir, the ICC said.
Bashir has evaded arrest since his ICC indictment in 2009 for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur conflict in which 300,000 people were killed and two million forced to flee their homes.