Monday, August 3, 2009

SA will honour ICC pledge

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - who faces an international warrant of arrest for alleged war crimes - would be arrested "today" if he were to land in South Africa, the department of international relations said on Thursday.

Briefing the media in Pretoria, Director General Ayanda Ntsaluba said that as South Africa was a signatory to the International Criminal Court's founding Rome Statute, it would be obliged to arrest him if he visited South Africa.

"There is not the slightest hint that South Africa will renege on its international obligations."

He said the African Union (AU) had "lost that battle" to have the arrest warrant for Al-Bashir - issued earlier this year - deferred.

He said the AU member states were "disappointed" that their request to engage with the court was not successful.

"It would be expected that people would be extremely disappointed... that the appeal was responded to in a manner that could be seen as harsh."

The AU has maintained that while it did not want to advocate impunity it was of the view that an arrest of a sitting head of state could possibly set a dangerous precedent and derail the peace process in Sudan.

However Ntsaluba said the battle would continue to be fought but within the confines of international commitments and South Africa's own constitutional mandate.

He said to not arrest Al-Bashir should he "hypothetically" land in South Africa could also potential violate elements of South Africa's own constitution.

"It [the law] is extremely explicit about what would happen.

"If today President Al-Bashir landed in terms of the provision [of the Rome Statute] he would have to be arrested."

He added that he had chosen his words carefully because he did not want to sensationalise an issue that was abstract.

"I don't want to create sensationalism out of an imaginary situation," said Ntsaluba.