ICC to hand down verdict on SA failure to arrest Bashir

05 July 2017 - 06:00 By AFP
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. File photo.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. File photo.

War crimes judges will tomorrow hand down an eagerly awaited ruling on whether South Africa flouted international law by failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for genocide in Darfur, in 2015.

The landmark decision will set a precedent for co-operation between countries and the International Criminal Court, experts say. It will also highlight that the tribunal, in The Hague, can function only with the support of its affiliated states and the backing of the UN Security Council.

"The ruling is fundamental for future compliance," said Carsten Stahn, international criminal law professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

A decision against South Africa "would send the message that states cannot negotiate [their] legal obligations with the court," he said.

Despite two international arrest warrants, issued in 2009 and 2010, Bashir remains at large and in office as conflict rages in the western Sudan region of Darfur.

The long-time ruler has denied the ICC's charges, including accusations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Africa and the ICC became embroiled in 2015 when Bashir attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg. Despite the arrest warrants, Bashir then flew home unhindered.

At a landmark hearing in April, South Africa disputed accusations by the ICC's prosecutors that it had broken its obligations to the tribunal it helped found in 2002.

International law experts agree that the ICC's judges are likely to find that South Africa failed in its obligation to arrest Bashir.

President Jacob Zuma last week reiterated the government's intentions to pull out of the ICC, saying it was "rectifying procedural challenges". But a court in February ordered it to reverse the decision as unconstitutional.