Escape from Justice: US & UN Must Hold South Africa Accountable

United to End Genocide, a U.S. based human rights advocacy group, called upon the UN Security Council to hold the government of South Africa fully accountable for not arresting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir today in Johannesburg. Bashir escaped South Africa after the High Court issued a warrant for his arrest. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. South Africa is obligated both by international treaty and domestic law to arrest him.

Former U.S. Congressman Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide, stated:

“A travesty of justice has just occurred in South Africa. A criminal who is wanted for the most heinous of crimes – genocide – has been allowed to escape justice. At issue now is whether it matters to leaders of the UN Security Council who referred Bashir’s case to the International Criminal Court.

This is a huge blow to accountability for the world’s worst crimes and requires a strong response by the UN Security Council. The South African government has violated its own constitution and its international treaty obligations by allowing Bashir to visit and then to flee the country, despite an order by its High Court to bar his exit and to arrest him.

The Security Council should condemn and hold South Africa accountable by demanding a full investigation as to how Bashir was allowed to escape after the High Court issued his arrest warrant. The fact that he was allowed to fly out of a South Africa military base raises the question: Was the escape of Bashir from South Africa the illegal act of a rogue military officer, or a military coup of a constitutional democracy?

“It is time for the UN Security Council to take a principled stand for international justice by standing behind the ICC chief prosecutor who has been appealing to the Council for support in bringing Bashir to justice. While South Africa’s courts and civil society seek to hold their government to account, the UN Security Council should stand with them.

“What is at stake is not only justice for the hundreds of thousands of Bashir’s victims in Darfur, but every victim of a genocide today and in the in the future. Whether Bashir is sent to the ICC speaks volumes about whether government leaders – including the U.S. and other members of the UN Security Council – are willing to walk the walk to stop genocide.”

“We salute South African civil society, including the Southern African Litigation Centre, which initiated the request for the arrest order, and the High Court of South Africa for taking action to bring Bashir to justice. Amid the shame of South Africa’s failure to detain Bashir, it should not be lost that Bashir was forced to flee like the fugitive he is, rather than as a respected head of state.”

United to End Genocide has long called for the arrest of Bashir, leading “Bashir Watch”, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to justice in Darfur. Bashir Watch sent a letter to the government of South Africa ahead of Bashir’s visit demanding that his invitation be withdrawn or he be arrested upon arrival.

See BashirWatch.org for information on the charges against Bashir and his travels and attempted travels since the warrants for his arrest were released.

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