Judges issue a ruling on South Africa's failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a three-day visit in June 2015. during a session of the International Criminal Court in The Hague

Cape Town - Amnesty International said on Thursday a ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) pre-trial chamber that South Africa failed in its duty to the ICC to arrest Omar al-Bashir confirmed that the Sudanese president did not have immunity from arrest.

"Today’s finding confirms what everyone, including South African authorities, knew all along. Al-Bashir does not have immunity from arrest and all states parties to the Rome Statute must arrest him the minute he steps onto their territory and hand him over to the ICC," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's African director for research and advocacy.

"It is shocking that other states parties such as Jordan are also failing in their obligations to arrest Al-Bashir and this decision makes it clear that they do so in flagrant violation of international law."

Bashir travelled to South Africa to attend an African Union Summit in 2015, and despite a high court ruling compelling the South African government to arrest him and surrender him to the ICC under its obligation as a signatory to the Rome Statute, he was allowed to leave the country without arrest.

South Africa has argued that it had an obligation under international customary law regarding diplomatic immunites not to arrest a sitting head of state. The ICC rejected this argument.

Bashir most recently travelled to Jordan, with that country also refusing to arrest him. 

Belay said Thursday's ICC ruling set an important precedent.

"South Africa breached its international and domestic legal obligations when it failed to arrest Al-Bashir. No state should follow this example. There must be no impunity for crimes under international law," he said.

"By failing to execute the ICC’s warrant against Al-Bashir, South African authorities took away a major opportunity from victims to achieve justice. What's most important now is such shameful failure is never repeated. South Africa must now put its weight behind international justice which faces increasing global challenges."