June 15, 2015
(KHARTOUM) – The South African government issued a statement on Monday vowing to probe the manner by which Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir left the country despite a local court ruling ordering him to remain in the country until a decision is made on a case pertaining to him.
“Government notes the judgment of the North Gauteng High Court on the matter regarding Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir,” reads a brief statement attributed to South Africa’s acting cabinet Spokesperson Phumla Williams.
“As indicated in court, government will enquire the circumstances under which President Al Bashir left the country. We will also comply with the court order relating to submission of an affidavit outlining these circumstances”.
As far as the judgment ruling related to Bashir’s immunity, Williams said that they will await “written reasons of the judgment” which is expected to come out in a week.
This is the first official comment by Johannesburg since the Bashir row erupted over the weekend.
Earlier today, the High Court judges handed down a decision ordering Bashir’s arrest despite government assertions on his immunity.
“The respondents are forthwith compelled to take all reasonable steps to arrest President Bashir … and detain him pending a formal request for his surrender from the International Criminal Court,” presiding Judge Dunstan Mlambo was quoted as saying by local South African media.
But when the decision was being read, Bashir had already left the country. This was communicated to Judge Mlambo by the government attorney right after he read the ruling adopted unanimously by the court.
The government attorney had been telling the court in the first part of the proceedings that he believes that Bashir is still in the country.
Judge Mlambo expressed concern that Bashir was allowed to leave despite the court order and ordered the government to file an affidavit explaining how that happened in what appears a step before determining who will be held in contempt of court.
“It is of concern to us, as a court that an order issued was ignored” he said.
Despite the government suggestion that Bashir ’sneaked out’ of the country without their knowledge, it is understood that his outbound flight was facilitated by South African officials who saw him off at the airport and cleared his plane for takeoff at Waterkloof military airport.
Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which brought the case against Bashir, expressed satisfaction with the court ruling today despite Bashir being allowed to leave.
“I think we are delighted with the court decision,” Caroline James from SALC told Sudan Tribune by phone from Johannesburg.
James said that while they have yet to see the reasoning behind the court’s decision, they believe the judges affirmed that the government had no right to grant immunity to Bashir and overrule constitutional and international obligations.
“This is really really good,” she said before adding that the decision will likely result in a political fallback specially when the government files the affidavit explaining how Bashir managed to leave.
Asked about the next steps, James said that once the affidavit is served, SALC will have its lawyers review it before deciding on whether to pursue contempt charges against government officials.