Sudan’s Bashir leaves S’Africa despite court order
SUDAN’S information minister has said that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has flown out of South Africa, defying a high court order which banned him from leaving the country until an application calling for his arrest had been heard.
“Yes, he has left,” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman confirmed to Al Jazeera, saying that South Africa had always agreed not to arrest the president while he was in the country for the African Union summit.
Osman said President Bashir’s plane was due to land back in Khartoum at about 6:30pm local time (15:30 GMT). The South African state broadcaster, SABC, first reported at about 10:15 GMT yesterday that the plane had flown out of the Waterkloof air force base, on the outskirts of Pretoria.
The lawyer appearing on behalf of the South African government, however, told the high court in Pretoria that President Bashir was not on the list of passengers in the Sudanese plane that left Waterkloof base.
Earlier, Sudanese Information Minister Osman told Al Jazeera the president would return to Sudan yesterday. “He is coming back to our country in one or two hours,” Osman said, adding that it did not matter if the court ordered Bashir’s arrest, as it had no ability to enforce such an order.
“The judiciary…does not have policemen. The president is there [in South Africa] and no one is going to arrest him.” An interim order was made by the high court in Pretoria on Sunday, barring President Bashir from leaving the country pending an application from civil society organisations, calling for his arrest.
The high court in Pretoria was to decide whether to send Bashir to the International Criminal Court. Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Johannesburg, said that the Sudanese president’s plane had been moved to a South African military base late on Sunday night.
She said that the defence force was not a party to the court case, meaning President Bashir would be able to fly from the base unobstructed. If the plane has left as reported, the home affairs department could be held in contempt of court for failing to implement the conditions of the order, our correspondent reported.
Bashir, who is accused of war crimes in repressing an armed uprising in the Sudanese region of Darfur, was appeared in Johannesburg on Sunday for the AU summit.
The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant in 2009, but Bashir denies the charges. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva on Monday that the authority of the ICC must be respected and its decision implemented. Before Sunday’s court ruling was announced , the judge said the court would decide whether a South African government cabinet decision to host Bashir would trump the ICC arrest warrant.