Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir waves on stage during a ceremony to declare an end to 13 years of conflict in Darfur on September 7, 2016 in the North Darfur state capital El-Fasher.
JOHANNESBURG - Senior Researcher at eNCA, Angelo Fick says the ICC judgment on South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has tainted the country’s image.
“It’s set a precedence in international law, because it now says there’s a precedence that states cannot simply flout international law by lifting immunities and its selective reading of the legal obligations because they’re not just customary as the minority held, but also treaty based and here South Africa’s position in international law is really in question because we continue to cite ourselves as this country with a moral stature- that we’re the state that abides by the law,” says Fick.
“The question now is, if we’ve now been found to have flouted international law, what does that put us in company with” South Africa will now be in the company of states which violate international law and will not cooperate with the ICC…So to what extent can South Africa hold on to its status as an international moral abettor if it continues to be counted among those who don’t abide by the very legal statues that it signs?”
On Thursday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruled that South-Africa should have arrested Al-Bashir, who is wanted in relation to war crimes, and that the country’s defense that he had diplomatic immunity as a head of state was without basis and against the spirit and wording of the Rome Statute.
The South African government responded with a statement saying it” will study the ruling and its implications and seek legal opinion on available options.” It specifically noted the decision by the court not to refer the matter to the United Nations (UN) security council, but added “in the meantime, South Africa reiterates its total commitment to the principles of international justice.”
Department of International Relations’s Clayson Monyela tweeted his relief at the fact that, effectively, there would be no consequences to South Africa flouting international law.
No referral to the Assembly of State Parties or the UN Security Council. I can breathe now. Pheeeewww! #ICC— Clayson Monyela (@ClaysonMonyela) July 6, 2017
Amnesty International released a statement saying the ruling was expected, and “confirms what everyone, including South African authorities, knew all along. Al-Bashir does not have immunity from arrest and all states parties to the Rome Statute must arrest him the minute he steps onto their territory and hand him over to the ICC.”
It added: “It is shocking that other states parties such as Jordan are also failing in their obligations to arrest Al-Bashir and this decision makes it clear that they do so in flagrant violation of international law.
“South Africa breached its international and domestic legal obligations when it failed to arrest Al-Bashir. No state should follow this example. There must be no impunity for crimes under international law. By failing to execute the ICC’s warrant against Al-Bashir, South African authorities took away a major opportunity from victims to achieve justice. What's most important now is such shameful failure is never repeated. South Africa must now put its weight behind international justice which faces increasing global challenges.”