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It seems to be a lottery among media organisations as to who will get it right considering the number of times the headlines have changed. That’s the million dollar question, has Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir left the country? The latest from the Sudanese ministry is that he will arrive in Khartoum at 6:30pm local time on Monday. If this is true, the more significant point is which side of the tennis court is South Africa playing for now. This steers away from the Western school of thought in the International Criminal Court and could be construed as a sense of Africanism. But if not the ICC, then who, and how will South Africa and Africa as whole deal with the Darfur crisis in which more than 300,000 people were killed? – Stuart Lowman
By Dinky Mkhize
Pretoria, June 15 (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has left South Africa, a Sudan minister said on Monday, defying a Pretoria court order for him to remain in the country until it ruled on an application for his arrest.
Bashir, who was attending an African Union summit in South Africa, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Pretoria High Court was in session on Monday to decide on a petition by the Southern African Litigation Centre, a rights group that wanted to force South African President Jacob Zuma’s government to arrest Bashir and hand him over to the ICC.
South Africa is an ICC signatory and therefore obliged to implement arrest warrants, but the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Sunday accused the Hague-based court of being biased against Africans and said it was “no longer useful”.
Pretoria’s furious response and its decision to allow Bashir to leave is affirmation of its shifting diplomatic priorities with Africa’s interests trumping those of the West.
Judge Hans Fabricius on Sunday barred Bashir from leaving South Africa until he had made a decision on the application and had asked the government to inform all ports of exit not to allow the veteran Sudanese leader to leave.
However, Sudan’s State Minister Yasser Youssef told Reuters Bashir had left South Africa and was due to land in the Sudanese capital Khartoum at around 6:30 p.m. local time (1530 GMT).
Local South African media earlier reported seeing a Sudanese plane leaving Waterkloof Air Force Base at around 1000 GMT.
Zuma’s government had given immunity to Bashir and all other delegates attending the AU summit.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010, accusing him of masterminding genocide and other atrocities in his campaign to crush a revolt in the Darfur region. He has long rejected the court’s authority.
The conflict in Darfur has killed as many as 300,000 people and displaced 2 million, the United Nations says.
The ICC, the U.S. Department and the U.N. have criticised Pretoria for rolling out the red carpet for Bashir.
“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,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva.
“The authority of the ICC must be respected and its decision implemented,” Ban added.
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