South Africa Wants More Time From ICC On President Al-Bashir Saga

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The South African government has appealed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for more time to enable the country respond to the court`s request regarding the visit of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir to South Africa.

Citing limited time as the reason for the extension request, the government of South Africa insisted that it needs more time to clarify the legalities regarding granting immunity from arrest of leaders of countries which are not signatory to the Rome Convention.

During his visit to South Africa in June for the African Union meeting, the ICC ordered South Africa to arrest President Al-Bashir of Sudan, a war crime suspect. Based on the war crime indictment of Al-Bashir and the fact that South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Convention, it was expected, according to the ICC and legal pundits, that Pretoria must act on the order of the ICC. Interestingly, further, the South African court equally ordered that President Omar Al – Bashir must not leave the country till it examined the jurisdiction of the case. But the government of President Zuma ignored both the domestic and international courts and hastily allowed Al ““ Bashir, a war crime suspect to leave the country undisturbed. With the bold decision taken by the government of South Africa, the ICC had given the country till Monday 5th October to submit her decision, why they ignored the order of the criminal court to arrest the war crime suspect. Unfortunately, South Africa did not honour the ICC deadline. Now, the heat is not only on President Omar Al-Bashir, but on South Africa as well.

Since the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague started beaming its legal antenna around the world, many leaders ““ most of them very powerful indeed ““ have started having sleepless nights in their comfortable (Presidential) palaces and villas. Not even those sleeping tablets prescribed by their personal doctors could guarantee them same dose of sleep. Try Zolpidem, eszopiclone or even temazepam. No good result? Aha“¦ Political insomnia!!! Come to think of it, how can you sleep ““ if you have some skeleton in your cupboard – when Uncle ICC is watching?

But that is not the only major headache of leaders battling with the legal telescope of the ICC. They face another problem, stigma – or disease if you like. One of them is called Persona non grata disease. In the legal jargon, this disease is highly infectious. If not well treated, it could lead to political isolation and “˜leper -type relationship“ amongst friends ““ irrespective of the “patient`s“ political power. This is a typical disease Al ““ Bashir, the once feared General of Sudan is suffering from. Once regarded as a political Mahagony and an asset, Al-Bashir is now a liability; the kind of President only few individuals want to associate with without causing unnecessary problems to themselves. Worse till, before Al-Bashir travels to any other country recently, he first checks the “status“of the country he is heading to. Is the country a signatory to the Rome convention? It is sympathetic to the ICC? End? No way! Then followed by a series of phone calls and assurances that he would be allowed to come back home after the visit. Allowed to go back home? President Omar Al ““ Bashir must be a treasured bride that everyone wants to keep him. Doesn`t that make President Omar al-Bashir and likes special? Yes, in their own ways and worlds.

In 2009 and 2010, the ICC issued two warrants of arrest for Al-Bashir, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. President Al-Bashir was indicted and must appear before the ICC court to answer criminal charges against him.

As a signatory to the Rome Statute, Pretoria was mandated to obey the ICC order and arrest Al-Bashir. Furthermore, in case of doubts or misunderstanding that may impede or prevent the execution of the ICC request, Article 97 of the Rome Statute clearly mandates the requested state (in this case, South Africa) to seek consultations with the ICC aimed at resolving the matter. But South Africa first released President Al-Bashir and insisted that the country was sadly not given enough opportunity to present arguments on the case.

While some believe that South Africa`s decision to release President Omar Al-Bashir was influenced more or less by the political and economic gains, with little or no regard to the legal implications, others think that the action of South Africa clearly echoed the sentiments many Africans have against the International Criminal Court.

Following the impasse, who is right ““ South Africa or the ICC? Has the ICC the right to arrest a sitting Head Of State ““ irrespective of the crime committed? As a signatory to the Rome Convention, must South Africa be held responsible or punished for ignoring the order of the ICC to arrest President Al-Bashir? What is the best way to prevent this harbinger of doom in the future? Please share your views on Kata Kata.