South African party seeks prosecutions over escape of ‘warlord’ Bashir

Democratic Alliance Leader Mmusi Maimane

Opposition party Democratic Alliance is asking South African prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against cabinet and security officials who facilitated the ‘escape’ of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in mid-2015 during an African Union summit when a court unexpectedly ordered him detained.

The High Court in Pretoria was asked by a human rights organization – the Southern African Litigation Centre – to detain Bashir in line with a warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide charges.

Bashir left the African Union summit in haste when the court unexpectedly ordered that he not be allowed to leave South Africa until a final decision on the right’s group’s application. The highly publicized court order and ‘escape’ of the Sudanese president embarrassed President Jacob Zuma, who had invited Bashir and claimed he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

Speaking on Friday outside the Cape Town Central Police Station, Democratic Alliance Leader Mmusi Maimane laid criminal charges against several members of cabinet, the South African Police Service, an elite police unit called the Hawks, members of the National Prosecuting Authority and other officials for “unconstitutional actions in allowing warlord, Omar al-Bashir, to flee the country.”

According to a press release by the Democratic Alliance, these officials aided and abetted the escape of Bashir in contravention of the Rome Statute (which governs the International Criminal Court) and the High Court order.

Maimane said that those complicit in Bashir’s escape “ought to face the legal consequences.” He says security officials were obliged to arrest and detain Bashir when he set foot on South African territory because of South Africa’s obligations as a member of the International Criminal Court.

After the departure of Bashir from South Africa, President Zuma’s government has sought to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, accusing it of pursuing a neo-colonial agenda in Africa.

However, the North Gauteng High Court has already ruled that that cabinet members and senior government officials “failed to take steps to arrest and/or detain the President of the Republic of Sudan Omar Al Bashir,” saying their actions were “inconsistent with the Constitution” and “invalid.”

Bashir left South Africa via the Waterkloof Airforce Base. He is alleged to have been aided by senior officials in various departments in order to escape soon after the court order was issued.

The Democratic Alliance is asking the police to investigate particularly the Minister of Justice, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, the Minister of Home Affairs, the head of national police, the head of the Hawks, and other officials.