Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria has demanded an explanation as to why Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was allowed to leave South Africa on Monday, despite an interim court order barring him from doing so.
“We request an affidavit to be filed with the registrar of this court within seven days, disclosing the time when he left, the port of entry or exit that he used,” Judge President Dunstan Mlambo told the government’s legal counsel, advocate William Mokhari.
“It is of concern to this court that it issues orders and then things just happen in violation of those orders. Be that as it may, that is an order we issue under the circumstances.”
Mlambo made the order, on behalf of a full bench of judges presiding over the high profile matter on Monday. He said the three judges were of the view that Al-Bashir should have been detained by South African authorities.
“We have reached a decision that we will hand down an order and the reasons will follow in a week’s time. It is declared by this court that the conduct of the respondents (SA government) to the extent that they have failed to take to arrest and to detain the President of Sudan Omar Hassan al-Bashir is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and invalid,” said Mlambo.
“The respondents are forthwith compelled to take reasonable steps to prepare to arrest President Bashir without a warrant in terms of Section 40 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and detain him pending a formal request for his surrender from the International Criminal Court.”
Shortly after Mlambo made this ruling, Mokhari revealed that he had been informed by government officials that Al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was no longer on South African soil.
“I’ve been informed by the government that they have reliable information that President Al-Bashir departed from the Republic on his way to Sudan,” Mokhari told the court around 3pm.
“The minister of state security and the minister in the presidency have informed me that the circumstances of his departure will be fully investigated,” he added.
On Monday morning, Mokhari told the court that widespread media reports indicating that Al-Bashir had left South Africa were rumours and had “surprised” the government.
Bashir has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide against some of the tribes of Sudan’s western Darfur region. Two warrants of arrest were issued against him in 2009 and 2010.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest him and surrender him to the ICC.
The application before the High Court in Pretoria was brought by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
Bashir attended the 25th African Union Summit held in Johannesburg, though it was expected that he would stay away to spare the South African government embarrassment.
On Saturday evening, AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma congratulated him on his landslide victory in national elections in Sudan in April.