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South Africa Opposition: Bashir Departure Illegal

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks to the crowd after a swearing-in ceremony at green square in Khartoum, June 2, 2015.

A lawmaker from South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) says the party is considering a criminal legal action against senior officials of President Jacob Zuma’s government who failed to prevent Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir from leaving the country despite a court order.

Jordan Lewis says the administration also entered into an illegal political agreement with the African Union (AU), which allowed the indicted Sudanese leader to leave the country in spite of arrest warrants against him issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC issued arrest warrants against Mr. Bashir for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

Lewis’ pronouncements came after a court in Gauteng Province asked the public prosecutor to investigate whether the South African government broke the law by ignoring a court order that sought to prevent President Bashir from leaving the country.

“The judge was scathing about the conduct of the South African government in ignoring its own law and ignoring the order of the court to arrest President Al Bashir,” said Lewis.

Additional legal action?

He says the DA supports the court’s directive to the public prosecutor. Lewis says the opposition party will consider its own legal action against the government.

“We are considering our own criminal charges against members of the government and also against ministers and even perhaps against the president himself,” said Lewis.

“We are taking legal advice whether that is appropriate given that the court has already instructed the prosecutor authority to do so unless there is duplication. We will wait to hear what the prosecuting authority's response to the court order is and then we will decide whether to lay our charges or not.”

But, in defense of the government’s action, Obed Bapela, deputy minister for traditional affairs was quoted by local media as saying in parliament, “The ANC reserves the right to raise these reform packages and if rejected we will have no alternative but to review our membership of the ICC,” said Bapela. “We are not going to use the AU as a platform to arrest leaders -- that will never happen … [And] that international criticism of South Africa's action showed contempt.”

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission said South Africa would not have been allowed to host the recent heads of state summit if all the leaders had not been allowed to participate.

Opposition lawmaker Lewis says the government acted illegally by guaranteeing immunity to all heads of state that attended the African Union summit in Johannesburg, in spite of its obligation to the ICC.

“If it was true that South Africa would not have been allowed to host the summit, then so be it,” said Lewis. “But South Africa as a country must stand up for the rule of law for constitutionalism and for human rights and justice both here in South Africa and internationally. And what they did was completely unacceptable and it cannot stand.”