ICC: South Africa Fails Darfurian Victims

15 Jun, 2015 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 15 June 2015

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, who is subject to an arrest warrant for crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court, today left South Africa where he was attending a Summit of the African Union. South Africa is a State Party to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court and is under a legal obligation to execute all orders and decisions of the ICC, including the arrest warrant. President al-Bashir fled the country while its highest constitutional court was hearing a petition from the Southern African Litigation Centre for his arrest and surrender to the ICC.

Statement by Alison Smith, International Criminal Justice Director for No Peace Without Justice:

“Today’s events in South Africa are not what we expected from the country that was so recently re-founded on the basis of freedom and human rights for all. Simply put, the South African authorities have allowed President al-Bashir to evade justice by failing not only to fulfil their international legal obligations but also by flouting an order from their own Constitutional Court requiring that President al Bashir be prevented from leaving.

“Even worse, moments before the South African authorities indicated President al-Bashir had left, the Constitutional Court stated that the South African authorities must arrest President al-Bashir without a warrant, pending a formal request of surrender from the ICC. The Constitutional Court further stated that South Africa’s failure to arrest him was inconsistent with South Africa’s own Constitution.

“Much is made of the fact that the ICC needs the political will of its States Parties to support its work and implement its judicial rulings. That is certainly evident in what happened today. Even more, the ICC needs the rule of law to prevail in its States Parties to ensure that even if political will is absent, at least its States Parties will honour its own internal rules and requirements. This episode shows that in the absence of a true commitment to the rule of law, even national courts cannot count on their rulings being implemented by the authorities.

“We commend the South African Litigation Centre for bringing this petition. This is really an example of what we as ordinary citizens can do to try to hold our governments to their international commitments. We also commend the South African judicial system: it should not be noteworthy for judges and lawyers to uphold the law, but to do so in the face of almost overwhelming political opposition is a courageous act. We only wish the South African authorities had as much integrity as their countryfolk in the face of this sad state of affairs. If they truly did not want to arrest President al-Bashir, they simply should not have invited him.

“Even as we see and lament the rule of law being degraded, we must never lose sight of the fact that the real losers here are the Darfurian victims. One again, they have been tossed aside in the interests of politics, their rights ignored and their plight forgotten. Siding with their oppressors dishonours South Africa’s history and the victims of the apartheid regime, many of whom died fighting callous leaders and a callous system in the hopes of a better world for all.”

For further information, please contact Alison Smith on asmith@npwj.org or +32 (0)2 548 39 12 or Nicola Giovannini (Press & Public Affairs Coordinator) on ngiovannini@npwj.org or +32-2-548-3915.