May 8, 2009 (WASHINGTON) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will not attend the inauguration ceremony for South African newly elected president Jacob Zuma on Saturday.
- South African President elect Jacob Zuma (Reuters)
Zuma will be sworn in Saturday as the fourth president since the fall of apartheid system, with almost 100 foreign delegations — including nearly 30 heads of state — set to attend with 30,000 onlookers gathered on the lawns at the seat of government in Pretoria.
South African media reported that Al-Bashir has been formally invited to attend but despite that, the Sudanese envoy in Cape Town was warned that his president will face arrest if he comes.
Al-Bashir faces an outstanding arrest warrant issued last March by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his alleged role in Darfur atrocities.
South Africa is a member of the Rome Statute which forms the basis of the ICC and is therefore obliged to arrest the Sudanese head of state,
This week a source in the South African presidency told the BusinessDay newspaper that it is not in the interest of Al-Bashir to come to the ceremony.
“If he does, that will create a situation, and we would be forced to arrest him, and we don’t want that,” he said.
The South African Foreign affairs director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba told reporters on Thursday that Sudan will be represented by a delegation without specifying who.
Even so, the South African Litigation Centre, a rights watchdog, said it has two lawyers on stand-by in the event that Bashir does show up, to ensure that the government follows through with his arrest, AFP reported.
South Africa becomes the first country to publicly state that it will arrest Bashir if he lands on its territory.
Some ICC members such as Djibouti said that they will not honor their obligations under the Rome Statute if Bashir visits them.
The African Union (AU) criticized the arrest warrant and called on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to suspend the indictment.
The African ICC members are scheduled to meet in June to consider withdrawing from The Hague based court in protest of the move against Bashir.