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Bashir arrest order comes too late

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's name was not on the list of passengers who left the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria shortly before noon on June 15, government said in court papers. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's name was not on the list of passengers who left the Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria shortly before noon on June 15, government said in court papers. File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Published Jun 15, 2015

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Pretoria - It was President Omar al-Bashir's lucky day. As the high court in Pretoria ordered government to immediately arrest him with the aim of surrendering him to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution, the president was already half way to Sudan.

Rumours ran rife on Monday that al-Bashir had left South Africa via Waterkloof Airforce Base shortly after noon on Monday. This in spite of an interim court order prohibiting his departure, pending the outcome of Monday's proceedings.

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Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, who headed a full bench (three judges) repeatedly asked counsel for the government, William Mokhari SC, whether al-Bashir was still in the country. The judge made it clear that this court did not have jurisdiction to hear the application launched by the Southern African Litigation Centre if the president was no longer in South Africa.

Mokhari repeatedly stated that he did not listen to media reports and as far as he was concerned. al-Bashir was still in the country.

He said that he will await the final word from the director-general of home affairs as to what the true position was, but said the legal arguments should in the meantime proceed.

Confirmation came more than three hours later, after Judge Mlambo ruled that it was the South African government's duty in terms of the Rome Statute to arrest and detain al-Bashir.

He ordered that this must be done without first obtaining a warrant for his arrest.

But this was too late, as Mokhari, as soon as the judge issued his order, said it was now confirmed that the president had already left the country. Mokhari said government undertook to launch a full investigation as to the circumstances under which al-Bashir left the country.

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Judge Mlambo ordered government to, within seven days, file an affidavit with the court, setting out the circumstances, including the time of departure and from where.

The court earlier on Monday heard that Waterkloof Airforce Base was among the ports of entry and exit which was notified of the interim order that the president may not leave the country pending the final word from the court.

Pretoria News

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