The International Criminal Court has ruled that South Africa should have arrested Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted in connection with war crimes when he entered the country in 2015.
President Bashir was the first President to be accused of organizing war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015.
He has attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg and despite earlier consultations between ICC and South African officials then flew out of the country again unhindered.
The court handed down a judgment on Thursday; it said that South Africa’s defense, that Bashir has immunity from arrest as head of state, is without basis and against the intention and wording of the Rome Statute.
The War crimes judges handed down their judgment on Thursday if South Africa flouted international law by failing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for trial on charges of genocide in Darfur.
It ruled that South Africa was not entitled to decide unilaterally not to cooperate with the International Court.
Legal experts widely expected that judges at the International Criminal Court would find that Pretoria, one of the founding members of the tribunal, failed to co-operate with the ICC based in The Hague.
The landmark decision is aimed at sending a message to signatories of the court’s founding Rome Statute that they must cooperate, many believe little concrete action will follow.
Despite two international arrest warrants issued in 2009 and 2010, Bashir remains at large and in office as the conflict continues to rage in the western Sudanese region of Darfur.
In 2015, he attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg and despite earlier consultations between ICC and South African officials then flew out of the country again unhindered.
Pretoria’s lawyers argued at an April hearing at the ICC there "was no duty under international law on South Africa to arrest" Bashir.
Pretoria had sought legal clarification from ICC judges shortly before the visit and argued there was "nothing at all" in the UN resolution to waive his diplomatic immunity.
But ICC prosecutor Julian Nicholls is reported to have shot back that South Africa "had the ability to arrest and surrender him and it chose not to do so."
Bashir, who has been president of Sudan since 1993, has denied all 10 charges against him, including three of genocide and two of war crimes.
And he continues to travel, with Khartoum announcing on Monday he will visit Moscow for the first time in August.