Home | News    Monday 28 September 2009

South Africa president warns Sudan’s Bashir of arrest

September 27, 2009 (WASHINGTON) — The president of South Africa Jacob Zuma affirmed his country’s position over the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) last March.

Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the South African president said that "as a signatory of this particular agreement [the ICC Statute] we said that once he has been arrested [in South Africa by judiciary], we could not stop the arrest of Bashir. That is the position we made”.

Asked by Amanpour whether he sticks to his earlier statements that if Bashir “was to ever set foot inside your [South Africa] country you would order him arrested”, Zuma replied “that is correct”.

The statements are the first of its kind by an African head of state since the ICC charged Bashir with seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This is also the first time Zuma speaks on the issue since the African Union (AU) summit held in Libya last July in which the states adopted a resolution that they shall not cooperate with the ICC in executing the warrant.

South Africa has reportedly raised no objections to the resolution believed to be pushed forward by the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. However, Zuma came under fire from rights groups in his country who accused him of violating his country’s laws and constitution.

However, shortly thereafter the South African government after consulting with its legal advisers declared that adopting the AU resolution would be a breach of its obligations.

Zuma defended the position of the AU, seen by human right groups and Darfur rebels as granting impunity to the Sudanese leader.

“The ICC took the decision and issued the warrant of arrest and there is a continental position by the AU to which we are a member which looked at the conditions in Sudan particularly the progress that we are making in terms of intervening to bring about peace and stability,” he said.

“What the AU said in the decision which we are part of. It did not say that president Bashir must not be arrested, all it asked is that a deferment of that action on the basis of the progress we are making in terms of the peace intervention. Our view was if you acted at that point you could reverse the process we are making and the consequences of it will certainly affect the Sudanese who are fighting. Therefore give us a chance to complete that particular chapter then you could deal with Bashir later” he added.

Sudan has raised the issue of South Africa’s position with regards to the ICC during a visit of its International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to Khartoum this month.

At the time, the Sudanese foreign ministry spokesperson Muawiya Osman told the UN sponsored Miraya FM radio that Nkoana-Mashabane told officials that South Africa is committed to the Sirte declaration calling for non-cooperation with the ICC.

Bashir has skipped Zuma’s inauguration last May after being warned that he would face arrest.

The remarks made by Zuma would likely outrage Khartoum which had said in the past that African ICC states are required to comply with the AU decision. They would also put South Africa at odds with its ally Libya, which pushed for the resolution.

Botswana and Chad are the only two countries in Africa that have publicly announced that they will not abide by the AU resolution halting cooperation with the ICC.