President Omar al-Bashir, indicted by the ICC, was in the country over the weekend for an AU Summit

Alexander Ciccone
Darfur Women Action Group

Washington, DC – The D.C.-based non-profit Darfur Women Action Group (DWAG) condemned the Government of South Africa for failing to arrest and surrender Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC). President al-Bashir reportedly flew out of South Africa over the weekend, despite an interim order issued by a South African court to prohibit the Sudanese leader, who is under indictment by the ICC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, from leaving the country until the case could resume on Monday. The Pretoria High Court was scheduled to decide whether he should be arrested and handed over to The Hague based tribunal. South Africa, as a signatory of the Rome Statute, was required under international law to arrest al-Bashir.

The South African government shamelessly argued that ICC jurisdiction did not apply at the African Union (AU) Summit to the chagrin of numerous civil society organizations around the world that, along with the Hague-based court, urged the South African authorities to abide by their international obligations. The government’s decision to ignore the court order will likely undermine standards of international law and the ICC’s relevance in Africa, yet may also be at odds with domestic law. Under the ICC Act of 2002, South Africa has a constitutional duty to abide by the ICC’s decisions.

DWAG was among the multitude of civil society organizations that sought to ratchet up pressure on the South African government to arrest and surrender al-Bashir. Along with other NGOs, the activist group sent a letter to the South African government and circulated an online petition to raise awareness over the dictator’s unhindered travel.

“The South African government’s failure to meet its obligations demonstrates its complicity in enabling and sustaining the genocide in Darfur, and it must be held accountable,” said Niemat Ahmadi, a native of Northern Darfur and DWAG’s founder and president. “The genocide in Darfur has been allowed to continue because of the reluctance of world leaders such as Jacob Zuma who choose to turn a blind eye”.

Although justice was not accomplished, the international outcry following his flight from the country reinforces the notion among al-Bashir and his supporters that he is no longer an ordinary diplomat and that his genocidal past will follow him wherever he goes. This incident has also spawned renewed media coverage of his crimes and has put Darfur back into the international spotlight. DWAG remains committed to advocating on behalf of genocide victims and will continue to fight for justice until this heinous criminal is put on trial.