Representatives of the South African Government had to explain today to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, why it had not complied with its obligations to the Court to arrest Omar al-Bashir, infamous President of Sudan, during his visit to the country in June 2015. In terms of the Statute of Rome – of which South Africa is a signatory – the ICC holds South Africa accountable for Al-Bashir leaving the country unhindered on 15 June 2015, resulting in him not having been held accountable yet for the human rights violations of which he is accused.
Prof Dire Tladi argued on behalf of the South African Government that the Statute of Rome did not compel any government to violate the immunity of any serving head of state who was not a signatory of the Statute by arresting him. He also added that Al-Bashir could not be held responsible for any human rights violations on his own. Tladi however denied that South Africa’s decision to allow Al-Bashir to leave, had anything to do with a personal relationship with Al-Bashir – according to the professor, South Africa’s course of action not to arrest him was a purely objective decision based on principle, without considering the individual.
Prof Tladi also contended that, even if the ICC were to find that South Africa had indeed violated its obligations to the Court, it would still be no reason to refer South Africa to the UN’s Security Council. He underlined the important role that South Africa played in peacekeeping operations in Africa.
According to Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO of AfriForum, the Government’s arguments come as no surprise; however, it attests to a lack of respect for the principle of the rule of law and the culture of unaccountability which increasingly characterises all levels of authority in South Africa. “Arguments regarding unclear legal aspects should have been clarified with the ICC long before Al-Bashir’s visit in 2015 – it cannot be used now as loophole to excuse the country’s actions in 2015,” she says.
“If a head of state cannot be held accountable for the actions of his government, who can be then? It does not mean that he should be the only individual to be held accountable – during a trial guilt and the role of other parties are also taken into account. Because of the South African Government’s refusal to arrest Al-Bashir and extradite him to the ICC, both Al-Bashir and the victims of the human rights violations have now been denied the opportunity of justice.”
AfriForum will monitor the rest of the proceedings and hopes that today’s hearing will bring the victims closer to justice, while it will serve as reminder to the South African Government that nobody is above the law.
Issued by AfriForum