South Africa Says al-Bashir Failed to Give Passport on Exit

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Omar al-Bashir
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Johannesburg on June 14, 2015 . Photographer: Felix Dlangamandla/Beeld/Gallo Images

South Africa’s government said the passport of Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir wasn’t given to immigration officials on his departure last week, allowing him to leave the country and avoid arrest.

Al-Bashir left South Africa “without his passport being presented to the immigration officer by the two Sudanese representatives” who provided travel documents for the delegation, the government said in an affidavit. A copy of the government’s statement was posted on the website of the Southern African Litigation Centre, which had sought his arrest.

Al-Bashir left South Africa on June 15 in defiance of a High Court order that the government stop his departure while it considered arresting him under an International Criminal Court indictment on war-crimes and genocide charges.

“We are not at all impressed,” Angela Mudukuti, an international criminal justice lawyer at the Southern African Litigation Centre, said by phone from Cape Town. “It really does sound unbelievable. We are definitely considering filing contempt of court charges.”

The Sudanese leader left South Africa from Waterkloof Air Force Base, which is often used by visiting heads of state and other dignitaries. The base, which is located in Pretoria, is under the control of the Department of Defence and immigration officials aren’t permanently stationed there, the government said in the affidavit.

Passports of passengers on board a flight of a head of state are usually presented to the immigration officer by representatives of the foreign leader, accompanied by a protocol officer from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, according to the affidavit.

The ICC indicted al-Bashir, 71, in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war-crimes and genocide for his role in atrocities in Sudan’s western Darfur region, where insurgents took up arms in 2003. As many as 300,000 people have died in the conflict, mainly from illness and starvation, according to United Nations estimates.

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