JOHANNESBURG, The South African government “now has reliable information” that Sudan’s President Omar al- Bashir has already departed the country, an official source said on Monday.
Al-Bashir’s departure “will be fully investigated”, Lawyer William Mokhari, who represents the South African government before the High Court in Pretoria.
Mokhari did not say when and how al-Bashir left South Africa.
The lawyer said earlier in the day that al-Bashir’s plane flew out of the Waterkloof Air Base near Pretoria around noon on Monday. He told the court that al-Bashir’s name was not on the list of passengers.
On Sunday, Judge Hans Fabricius at the Pretoria High Court ruled that al-Bashir should not leave the country until an urgent application to have him arrested has been heard.
Fabricius later postponed the order until 11:30am Monday to allow the government to present its side of the argument for not arresting al-Bashir.
Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman reportedly said al-Bashir has left Johannesburg, and is expected to arrive in the capital Khartoum at 18:30 local time.
However, the minister had said on Sunday that al-Bashir already left South Africa. But later, al-Bashir was reported to be spotted outside a hotel near the Sandton International Convention Centre where the 25th African Union (AU) Summit was taking place.
The Sudanese president arrived in South Africa on Saturday to attend the 25th African Union (AU) Summit in Johannesburg. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested South Africa to arrest al-Bashir. He is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity.
The Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) filed an urgent application on Sunday to have al-Bashir arrested, as South Africa, being a signatory to the Roman Statues, has an obligation to arrest al-Bashir and hand him over to the ICC.
However, David Hoile, Director of Africa Research Centre, told Xinhua that South Africa’s signature to the AU article that give sitting presidents immunity from arrests and calling on all African countries not to cooperate with the ICC, bars the country from arresting the Sudanese president.
“The government of South Africa is legally bound first and foremost by its obligations to the AU as a constituency member state,” said Hoile.