Darfur’s displaced demand trial South African president

Internally displaced people in Darfur praise the South African court’s ruling, that President Al Bashir should have been arrested. “By letting him escape, they violated the law.”

The internally displaced people living in camps in Darfur have praised the independent decision of the High Court in South Africa, which ruled that the government should have arrested President Omar Al Bashir before he left the country on Monday afternoon. In Sudan, demands are voiced to punish the South African president for allowing Al Bashir to escape.

The coordinator of the Darfur camps, sheikh Abdelrazeg Yousif Suleiman, in an interview with Radio Dabanga said he believes that “Al Bashir who escaped facing justice will inevitably face it someday sooner or later”. The Sudanese President ignored a court order that barred him from leaving South Africa until the application for his arrest was heard.

Suleiman, speaking for the displaced population: “The displaced people demand taking the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, to trial, on charges of being complicit -as well as his presidential staff- with assisting Al Bashir to escape.”

The camp coordinator called on the Sudanese to go out in demonstrations until they overthrow President Al Bashir, whom he further described as “illegitimate and fugitive”.

Sheikh Suleiman, in an attempt to assure the victims of the crimes committed by Al Bashir throughout Sudan (according to the international court: genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity), said that what happened to the president in South Africa “affirms that the doors are getting narrower, and very soon he will be in a cage of justice”.

'AU shows disregard to ICC'

President Omar Al Bashir was in South Africa for the African Union summit, when the Pretoria High Court issued an interim order on Sunday that prevented him from leaving, until a ruling was made on Monday whether he should be arrested to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The country is a state member of the Rome Statute and obliged to execute any arrest warrant by the ICC. Al Bashir's departure through the military airbase of Waterkloof is a violation of this court order.

When the president returned to Sudanese grounds on Monday afternoon, his Foreign Minister, Ibrahim Ghandour, told the press that his possible arrest was a “media hype”, and praised president Zuma for not carrying out the arrest.

At the AU summit, Al Bashir was “the star of Africa's leaders”, Ghandour said. His participation was to show that the ICC does not mean anything to Africa, added Khartoum Governor Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein, who himself is also wanted by the international court on charges of war crimes.

Demands to punish President Zuma

For his part, sheikh Matar Younis, one of the prominent native administration leaders in Darfur, added his voice to Suleiman, saying that what happened to Al Bashir in South Africa is the first real attempt to arrest and detain him since his international arrest warrant has been issued in 2009.

Sheikh Younis also commended the South African judiciary with its “milestone in judicial independence in Africa”. “If he escapes it in the world, he cannot escape in the hereafter,” he told Radio Dabanga.

Minni Arko Minawi, head of the armed rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM-MM) praised the South African court that issued a decision to arrest President Omar Al Bashir. However, “the possibility to arrest him was available without the complicity of the [court]”, pointing to the international arrest warrant. He called on the Sudanese people to move for regime change in Khartoum.

Ahmed Hussein Adam, researcher at the Development Research Institute at Cornell University in the United States, described Al Bashir’s escape before the judiciary decision to arrest him as a “sad day for the victims, the people of Sudan, Africa, and those in the Republic of South Africa.

“What has happened is a serious violation of international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” Hussein Adam therefore demanded the resignation of President Jacob Zuma. He also condemned the AU’s invitation extended to Al Bashir to attend the 25th summit. “The African Union has now become a club for dictators, not for people.”

South Africa vows probe

The judge of the Pretoria High Court issued an order yesterday, that the government provide an explanation to the court within seven days, disclosing the place where Al Bashir left the country, and the precise time that he had left. The South African government issued a statement on Monday vowing to probe the manner. This was the first official comment by Johannesburg since the -by South African media named- 'Al Bashir debacle' erupted over the weekend.