December 9, 2013 (WASHINGTON) - Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir will not be travelling to South Africa to participate in the memorial service for former president Nelson Mandela who passed away last week.
- US president Barack Obama (L) is welcomed following his arrival in South Africa to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela on 10 December 2013 (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Newly-appointed first vice-president Bakri Hassan Saleh, who was sworn in earlier this week, will represent Sudan at the event, according to a list released by South Africa’s international relations and cooperation department.
A spokesman for the Sudanese embassy confirmed to South Africa’s Sunday Independent newspaper that Bashir would not be attending in order to avoid any complications associated with his indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
South African officials said no invitations had been sent out to world governments for the funeral, and it was left up to individual countries to decide who to dispatch.
The event is expected to be one of the largest gatherings in recent years, bringing together heads of state and top officials from all around the world, including former leaders.
Among the 59 heads of state expected to attend is US president Barack Obama, who will also be joined by his predecessors George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Bashir faces two outstanding arrest warrants issued by ICC judges on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome statute which forms the basis of the ICC and is therefore obliged to arrest the Sudanese head of state.
Although several African countries that are ICC members have previously received Bashir without arresting him, legal experts point out that South Africa is one of the few countries that have domesticated the Rome statute into its national laws.
As a result, the apprehension of the Sudanese leader becomes a requirement imposed by local South African laws that the executive branch cannot overrule.
South African officials have made statements in the past indicating that they have no option but to arrest Bashir should he set foot on their territory.
Nonetheless, South Africa has backed all African Union (AU) resolutions calling for the suspension of the arrest warrant against Bashir and ordering member states not to cooperate with the ICC in this regard.
Johannesburg has also lent its support to an AU decision last October which stated that sitting African heads of state should not be prosecuted. The move came in response to the ICC case against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, who are currently facing trial in The Hague for their alleged role in 2007 post-election violence.