Update as of 7:52 a.m. EDT: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has left South Africa for home, the Associated Press reported, citing Sudan’s state news agency. His plane is due to land in Khartoum on Monday night, the report added.
Al-Bashir, who is currently dealing with a legal dispute over alleged war crimes, had announced earlier on Monday that he would leave South Africa regardless of an order by Pretoria's supreme court preventing him from leaving the country.
His reported departure comes as South Africa’s High Court has reportedly ordered the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Monday. Sudanese and South African government officials confirmed al-Bashir exited the country in defiance of a judge’s order that he remain in South Africa until local authorities determined whether to extradite him to the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir said on Monday that he would leave South Africa despite being barred by its highest court amid a legal dispute over alleged war crimes. Bashir is wanted by the United Nations-backed International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes committed during the Darfur conflict.
Bashir had traveled to Johannesburg to attend a regional summit of African leaders, but the supreme court in Pretoria issued an order to prevent him from leaving the country until an application to force his arrest is heard. A further hearing has been scheduled for Monday while the court hears the application by the Southern Africa Litigation Center (SALC), a legal organization, to overturn a previous decision granting full immunity to all delegates attending the summit.
However, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party appeared to dismiss the ICC warrant, stating that the international court was “no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended,” the Guardian reported.
The ANC also reportedly called for the ICC’s statutes to be reviewed to make them applicable to other U.N. members, and to ensure it was a “fair and independent court for universal and equitable justice.” The ANC was formed in 1912 to "unite the African people and spearhead the struggle for fundamental political, social and economic change," according to its website.
African leaders claim The Hague-based ICC only prosecutes leaders from their countries, and fails to look into war crimes committed elsewhere in the world.
South Africa’s justice ministry said it would argue against the SALC application to force Bashir’s arrest. Meanwhile, Bashir himself appeared set to leave the country as scheduled. "President Bashir is still in Johannesburg but we are leaving South Africa today," Bashir’s spokesman Mohamed Hatem told Reuters.
The ICC has two warrants against Bashir, issued in 2009 and 2010, over alleged genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Darfur conflict. Bashir has avoided arrest for years by skipping visits where he might face ICC arrest and prosecution.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the ICC called on all its member nations to fulfill their obligations to the court.
“The President of the Assembly expresses his deep concern about the negative consequences for the Court in case of non-execution of the warrants by States Parties and, in this regard, urges them to respect their obligations to cooperate with the Court,” the ICC's Assembly of State Parties said, in a statement. “To this end, he calls on South Africa, which has always contributed to the strengthening of the Court, to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants if the information received is confirmed.”
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday that the ICC warrant must be implemented.
"The International Criminal Court’s warrant for the arrest of President al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes is a matter I take extremely seriously," Ban said, in Geneva, according to Reuters.