Archbishop Desmond Tutu said Tuesday that some of the most powerful nations' refusal to comply with the International Criminal Court had created an environment for South Africa to allow Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir into, and out of, the country.
"These powerful nations have created the rationale for the South African government to allow al-Bashir into the country despite the international warrant of arrest hanging over his head, and then to allow him to travel home despite a South African High Court order to the contrary," said a statement issued by his foundation.
It did not name any of the "powerful nations" referred to in his statement.
Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, arrived in South Africa on Saturday to attend an African Union summit, prompting a court bid by a rights group to have him arrested.
The Sudanese leader flew back out of South Africa on Monday, before the end of an African leaders' meeting, despite an earlier ruling blocking him from leaving.
Archbishop Tutu argued that allowing Bashir in spoke volumes about South Africa's moral fabric, as it had on three occasions denied entry to the Dalai Lama.
"In a moral world, Al-Bashir would have the opportunity to defend himself in a court to which all nations should be equally accountable, regardless of their power," Tutu said.
The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in its statement said "if the world is to become a fairer, more compassionate, tolerant and peaceful place" it needed institutions like the ICC "to hold those who abuse power to account".
The respected clergyman spoke about the integrity of The Hague-based court, saying the world "needs a criminal court where all are held equally to account, regardless of their nation's wealth, geographic location or particular history."
The ICC has often come under fire from African presidents who accuse it of targeting leaders from the continent.
The retired 83-year-old Tutu is regarded as South Africa's voice of reason and often speaks out against the failures of the post apartheid government led by the African National Congress (ANC).