South African Court Says State Can’t Appeal Al-Bashir Ruling

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South Africa’s High Court rejected a government bid to appeal its earlier order that had aimed to prevent visiting Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir from leaving the country.

The government defied a High Court order by allowing al-Bashir to leave South Africa on June 15 after he attended an African Union summit while the tribunal was considering whether he should be arrested. The International Criminal Court has indicted the Sudanese leader twice for war crimes and genocide.

“We do not hold the opinion that the appeal has reasonable prospects of success at all,” Judge Hans Fabricius said in his ruling broadcast by Johannesburg-based eNCA television. “The application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs.”

Al-Bashir, 71, has ruled Sudan for a quarter century since taking power in a military coup. The ICC, based in The Hague, indicted al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 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 the United Nations.

While South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the government argued that it couldn’t arrest al-Bashir because he was in the country for an event that fell under the AU’s jurisdiction.

While the government can approach the Supreme Court of Appeals directly and ask it to hear the case, the court isn’t obliged to do so, Pierre de Voss, a law professor at the University of Cape Town, said by phone.

Mthunzi Mhaga, a spokesman for the justice ministry, told eNCA the government would study the judgment before deciding on its next course of action.

Angela Mudukuti, a lawyer at the Southern African Litigation Centre which filed the lawsuit seeking al-Bashir’s arrest, said the human rights group would wait to hear whether the government would appeal the ruling before deciding whether to file contempt of court charges against state officials.