Sudan President Al-Bashir Flees South Africa to Avoid War Crimes Charge


‘Al-Bashir Disappears’

In South Africa, a meeting of nations once again takes place. The African Union is made up of 56 states, representing each corner of the continent. From the 7th of June until the 15th, Africa’s leaders have gathered in Johannesburg. Each year, the leaders of Africa’s countries stage a summit to discuss the challenges facing the continent, and how, through cooperation and understanding, they can best be met. No issue is off the table, from women’s issues, raised in a speech by Robert Mugabe on Sunday, to poverty, to the AIDs crisis.

This year, human rights and justice are firmly on the agenda. The presence of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir will make sure of this. Al-Bashir is accused of a multitude of crimes. Most serious are accusations that he was responsible for war crimes during the Darfur conflict. The crisis saw over 400,000 deaths since the start of the rebellion in 2003.

2 million people are said to have been internally displaced. President al-Bashir was charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and has been under an arrest warrant since 2009. In light of these, al-Bashir sought to avoid countries which were signatory to the ICC. As a result, there has been little opportunity for al-Bashir to be caught. Until now. On Sunday, upon President al-Bashir’s arrival, he was told that he could not leave. After much deliberation, South Africa’s Pretoria High Court ruled that the president was to be held in South Africa.

Al-Bashir was allowed to meetings, focus groups, speeches, and seminars. The minute the conference ended, there were planned moves to arrest him.

Al-Bashir denies all charges. Protesters lined the streets outside Johannesburg’s Sandtron Convention Centre. South Africa had faced intense pressure in the days preceding the summit to arrest al-Bashir the moment he landed in the country.  Controversially, it was decided to allow the president to attend the summit, with the promise that he would be apprehended shortly afterwards. However, this was not to be the case. While South Africa’s courts and authorities were still deliberating whether or not he would be extradited to the Hague, al-Bashir slipped away. It seems, at least today, Omar al-Bashir will not face criminal charges. By allowing him to slip through the net, it is likely that the South African authorities may have to face some harsh questioning of their own.

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