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South African Parliament to Debate Controversy Over Sudan President Bashir

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

A prominent South African opposition lawmaker says President Jacob Zuma’s government flouted the constitution by refusing to carry out a court order that sought to prevent Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir from leaving the country following the recent African Union summit held in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s parliament plans to open a debate on Tuesday about the administration’s refusal to prevent President Bashir from leaving the country despite the court’s ruling.

Parliamentarian Jordan Lewis from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) says the party will demand answers from the government. He said it was unlawful for the government to sign a so-called political agreement with the African Union that guaranteed immunity to all heads of state who were at the summit.

Lewis said the refusal of the administration to arrest Mr. Bashir puts the country in a constitutional crisis.

“This is a very serious matter and as the Democratic Alliance, we have called for accountability on this matter. We want the government to explain how is it that Bashir was let out of the country without being arrested and how is it that the government can simply ignore an order of a court,” he said.

Lewis said he expects Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa or the Home Affairs minister will be in parliament to answer questions about the refusal to carry out demands by the ICC to arrest Mr. Bashir.

ICC warrants

Some analysts said the administration committed a diplomatic faux pas after failing to arrest Bashir despite calls by the International Criminal Court, or ICC, for his arrest and handover to the court to face trial.

The ICC issued two arrest warrants against the Sudanese leader after accusing him of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity against the people of Darfur.

Opposition parliamentarian Lewis condemned what he says was the government’s assault on the constitution.

“I would call it an absolute disgrace and the trampling on the South African constitution,” said Lewis. “When we are signatories to the Rome Statute and we have legislation in South Africa which states that we will abide by the rulings and the decisions of the International Criminal Court, then we are bound by that law to implement the arrest warrant of the International Criminal Court, whether we agree with them or not.”

Supporters of the government, however, praised the government for sticking to its commitment to the African Union to ensure immunity of all of the African leaders who were part of the summit. They accused the ICC of selective justice and only targeting Africans. Lewis disagreed.

“The agreement reached at the African Union was illegal and therefore completely illegitimate. We have domestic legislation called the International Criminal Court Act, which binds us to the decision and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” said Lewis.

“So to reach a decision at the African Union, which is a political decision, has no legal standing or legitimacy. The government should have never offered that guarantee…and in fact it was illegal to offer that guarantee,” he added.

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