The International Criminal Court’s chief deputy prosecutor on Monday voiced disappointment at South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, as the African leader jetted back to Khartoum, saying it had breached its obligations.
Bashir flew out of South Africa earlier Monday, dodging a court order for him to stay as local judges weighed up whether he should be arrested over alleged war crimes and genocide.
The ICC was “disappointed that he was not arrested. Our position has always been that South Africa’s obligation is clear and unequivocal. It had an obligation to arrest him,” the court’s
chief deputy prosecutor James Stewart told AFP.
Bashir had travelled to Johannesburg for an African Union summit that was overshadowed by the ICC call for him to be detained on long-standing warrants over the Darfur conflict.
South Africa is a signatory of the ICC, which has often been criticised for only targeting Africa leaders.
At the summit, Bashir attended a group photograph on Sunday along with South African host President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who is the chair of the 54-member group.
Monday was the final day of the summit.
Sudan officials in Johannesburg had earlier brushed off the court case and said the South African government had given them assurances about Bashir’s trip before the summit.
Stewart, a veteran prosecutor who is chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s deputy, said “in the end it may strengthen us and not be a setback as some might think.”
The fact that Bashir had left before the summit ended showed “that ICC arrest warrants actually means something.”
He said the prosecutor’s office could now ask ICC judges for a referral to the UN Security Council over South Africa’s failure to comply, but that “we’ll first let everybody catch their breaths.”
Stewart added: “This is a long game and patience ultimately will pay off.”