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Bashir’s possible attendance of AU summit in South Africa draws skepticism


June 11, 2015 (WASHINGTON/KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese leader’s purported plan to fly in to South Africa for the African Union (AU) summit this weekend was met with deep skepticism from diplomats and officials in Johannesburg.

FILE - Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir flanked by Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and South African leader Jacob Zuma (Reuters Photo)

Earlier today, government sources in Khartoum told Sudan Tribune that a committee consisting of multiple government agencies reviewed the merits of the trips and the logistics and cleared Bashir’s attendance in South Africa.

The sources also revealed that the Sudanese embassy in South Africa has been formally notified about Bashir’s planned appearance.

This ran contrary to reports by several local and international media houses this week which stated that 1st VP Bakri Hassan Saleh will represent Sudan at the convention instead of his boss who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes and genocide committed in Darfur.

Sudanese officials currently participating in AU preparatory meetings confirmed to African News Agency (ANA) Bashir’s participation in heads of state summit.

But South African officials, speaking to ANA on condition of anonymity, foreign diplomats and some human rights bodies have said they don’t believe he will come as whatever happens to him, his presence would be a major embarrassment to the South African government.

Other diplomats told ANA that they suspect that Sudanese officials may deliberately be leaking disinformation that he intends to come to South Africa just to cause confusion.

There was no public statements from Khartoum or Johannesburg on the level of representation Sudan will have at the summit. South African officials have not stated what action if any would occur should Bashir set foot in the country.

The Johannesburg-based Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) said it is preparing to seek an arrest warrant from a local judge for Bashir.

“We are receiving information from various sources that Bashir is due to arrive in SA on Saturday. We are trying to confirm information and will prepare an urgent application to have him arrested, “SALC Executive Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh told ANA.

Keogh noted that the Constitutional Court had ruled that South Africa must uphold its international law obligations under the Rome Statute which governs the ICC.

She also pointed out that South Africa had domesticated the Rome Statute’s provisions into South African law, the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 27 of 2002 (the ICC Act).

“In the preamble of the ICC Act, South Africa boldly commits itself to bringing persons who are suspected of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, to justice pursuant to its commitment as a signatory to the Rome Statute of the ICC and in terms of its domestic law obligations,” she said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) associate international justice director Elise Keppler warned in a Twitter post that by traveling to South Africa “Bashir risks arrest on arrival”.

South Africa has warned several times in the past that it will arrest Bashir should he visit in compliance with the ICC arrest warrant.

This was despite AU resolutions instructing its members not to cooperate with the ICC in apprehending Bashir.

In August 2009 the South African Department of Foreign Affairs issued a detailed statement outlining its position on the AU resolution regarding Bashir from a legal and political perspective.

“An international arrest warrant for President El Bashir has been received and endorsed by a magistrate. This means that if President El Bashir arrives on South African territory, he will be liable for arrest” the statement said.

Bashir has not visited South Africa since the issuance of the arrest warrant but in May 2009 he asserted in an interview with the BBC ‘Hardtalk’ program that he could visit if he wanted to.

The Sudanese leader has managed to travel to several African ICC members since 2009 but in some of these instances this seem to have backfired.

A trip by Bashir in 2011 to Kenya, another ICC member, without being arrested prompted a civil society group to file a case in court which ended up with the issuance of a provisional arrest warrant for him by a Kenyan judge.

Malawi, which received Bashir once, chose not to host an AU summit afterwards because it could not guarantee Bashir’s risk-free attendance after US pressure.

In 2013, Bashir, traveled to Nigeria for a conference but left abruptly after less than 24 hours without addressing the main event on behalf of Sudan or attending a formal dinner or taking part in the group photo.

In a filing made with ICC judges at the time, the Nigerian government suggested that prior to Bashir’s sudden exit it was in the process of initiating arrest procedures against him.

"The sudden departure of President Al-Bashir prior to the official end of the AU summit occurred at a time that officials of relevant bodies and agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria were considering the necessary steps to be taken in respect of his visit in line with Nigeria’s international obligations".


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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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