Dictators be warned

HARARE - South African judge Hans Fabricius' decision that Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir be prevented from leaving South Africa until an application that he be arrested is finalised in court is a lesson to African dictators that the long arm of the international law will eventually catch up with them.

Dictators around the continent must understand that brutalising people and trampling on their rights is a serious crime which is punishable by arrest and prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC has lawfully issued and circulated an arrest warrant against al-Bashir, for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al-Bashir is in South Africa attending the African Union summit where he faces arrest if the courts rule against him in South African courts today.

South Africa is party to the Rome Statute and therefore has an obligation to arrest and surrender him to the ICC in conformity with the provisions of the statute.

The Southern African Litigation Centre (Salc) rightly brought an urgent application — which was granted by the High Court in Pretoria yesterday — compelling South African authorities to make sure al-Bashir does not leave the country until his issue has been resolved.

In the recent elections in his country boycotted by the opposition, the suspected war criminal romped to victory with a staggering 95 percent of the vote!

Salc wants him to be handed over to the ICC for war crimes while he is still in South Africa.

Al-Bashir is being held to account for war crimes he committed as far back as 2008. In July 2008, the prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno Ocampo, accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur. The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on March 4, 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. On July 12, 2010, the ICC issued a second warrant containing three separate counts. The new warrant, as with the first, was delivered to the Sudanese government, which did not recognise it or the ICC.

It is trite to note that al-Bashir is the first sitting head of State indicted by the ICC. The rules of customary international law on personal immunities of incumbent heads of State do not apply in the case of the exercise of criminal jurisdiction by the ICC; therefore they do not bar the exercise of the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to an incumbent head of State in SA.

An international criminal court can “lawfully” issue and circulate an arrest warrant against individuals entitled to personal immunity before national courts. South Africa must “lawfully” disregard the personal immunity of al-Bashir and surrender him to the requesting international court for justice to be served.

The ICC arrest warrant is a lawful coercive act against an abusive head of State. President Al Bashir must be surrendered in accordance with Article 98(1) of the Rome Statute. South Africa is bound to comply with this request and being the biggest democracy in Africa, President Jacob Zuma must also ensure that al-Bashir is arrested.

Comments (5)

The judges should have released the decision while Al Bashir was still in SA not to wait till Monday when the culprit has left.

ananian - 17 June 2015

South Africa never wanted Bashir to be arrested and they will never arrest anyone. they planned bashir's exit.

wind - 17 June 2015

it is obvious they did not want to arrest him because if they really want they could have done so the very day he arrived in south africa

disturbed - 17 June 2015

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