Bashir court case: President escapes South Africa against court order

Al Bashir’s flight was cleared while the court requested the South African government whether it complied with the court order that prevented him from leaving.

UPDATE 13:45 (EAT) –  A diplomatic source has confirmed to the public broadcaster in South Africa, SABC, that president Omar Al Bashir has left the country and is heading for Khartoum. The plane has left South African ground suddenly, as no outbound flight was scheduled at Waterkloof Defense Airport. A court verdict against Al Bashir is taking place in Pretoria, for a potential arrest of the Sudanese president, and handing him over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

The State lawyer confirmed this afternoon in court, that Waterkloof Airport was earlier on Monday notified that Al Bashir was not allowed to leave the country. He told the judge he was not informed whether Al Bashir was on board. 

The High Court in Pretoria in South Africa has continued this afternoon to hold a hearing on whether to order the arrest of President Al Bashir in spite of reports that a Sudanese aircraft possibly carrying the president already left the country. The presiding judge said the matter of Al Bashir's departure was “speculative” and that until officially confirmed, he would continue hearing the case as if he were in the country. 

Government lawyer William Mokhari said during the televised court hearing: “As we sit I do not have the official confirmation that he has left the country. I only have media reports that he has left the country.” He said the media reports were not yet conclusive proof that Al Bashir left the country or that he was inside the plane that took off. Mokhari also added that Al Bashir was not documented to have left via the Waterkloof military airport as far as he had been informed. “His name is not in the name of people who have taken off from … Waterkloof.”

UPDATE 13:12 – Journalists in Waterkloof Defense airport of South Africa say the plane with Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir has left the country against court orders some minutes after 13:07. His flight was cleared, but it is not sure that Al Bashir is on board of his plane, but it is possible that the South African government has helped president Omar Al Bashir  to escape the country to prevent his arrest. The court was about to rule a potential arrest warrant in order to hand him over the the ICC in The Hague for charges of genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur.

UPDATE 13:05 The South African High Court demands to know whether South African government has complied with the order to halt Bashir's travel. Earlier, judge Hans Fabricius issued an interim order to border authorities in the Department of Home Affairs to prevent Al Bashir leaving South Africa until he had delivered his judgement on whether or not Al Bashir should be arrested and handed over to the ICC.

In a televised court hearing before noon on Monday in South Africa, a judge of the three-member High Court reqested to know from government lawyer William Mokhari whether the government complied with its interim order. Mokhari responded that the government has complied with the judge's order to notify security officials at the borders not to allow Al Bashir to leave the country, but he could not confirm that border officials at all ports of entry had received the order. “I'm told that it has been complied with, especially in so far as paragraph two of that order is concerned which required the Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs to [notify] officials at each point of entry in the Republic,” said the government lawyer. "This court still has juridiction to deal with the matter." 

He was asked directly by the presiding judge whether Al Bashir was still in the country. “To the best of our knowledge as the government, he is in the country,” said advocate Mokhari. In subsequent remarks,he also asked the court to "stand down" until 2 pm local time, but his request was not granted. The judges, before making this decision, appeared to have consulted among each other about whether to issue another follow-up order regarding the ports of exit.

The presiding judge further said that advocate Mokhari must respond after the hour-long recess about border authorities that have reportedly been unresponsive to the court's interim order yesterday and have not yet confirmed receipt of the order.

UPDATE 12:56 – The court has adjourned the case to prevent president Omar Al Bashir from returning to Sudan. The judge was handed a 24-page document, dating back to 21 May, by the prosecutor Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to plead for his arrest and handing over to the ICC in The Hague on charges of genocide and other war crimes. (file attached below)

The plane of the president of Sudan has been moved to another airport, but he is reportedly still in South Africa as the High Court in Pretoria is scheduled to resume a hearing on whether to order his arrest as demanded by the ICC. The court in Pretoria issued an interim order on Sunday that Al Bashir is not to leave the country until the issue was settled. The order came as a surprise in spite of Al Bashir's invitation to attend the African Union summit hosted by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.

Reuters reported that Sudanese presidency spokesman Mohamed Hatem confirmed earlier today that Al Bashir is still in South Africa. “President Al Bashir is still in Johannesburg but we are leaving South Africa today,” he said. The Sudanese government brushed off the Pretoria court order in statements made via state media from the capital Khartoum yesterday, saying the president was attending the AU summit normally and had assurances that he would leave afterwards without interference.