Cape Town — A human rights group today asked a South African court to order the arrest of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is reported to have arrived in the country for the African Union summit being held in Johannesburg.
A representative of the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) confirmed to AllAfrica that it had secured a hearing in the North Gauteng High Court on Sunday morning to hear an application for an order that Bashir be arrested.
The development came the day after Senegal's justice minister, Sidiki Kaba, acting in his capacity as head of the legal instrument responsible for the operations of the International Criminal Court (ICC), asked South Africa to arrest Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the people of Darfur. There are two outstanding warrants for his arrest arising out of the decade-long conflict in Darfur.
Last month the SALC warned the South African government that if the ICC asked for his arrest, the justice ministry was bound by law immediately to forward the request to a magistrate, who would have to endorse a warrant of arrest.
In a statement issued by the ICC, Kaba called on South Africa - which subscribes to the ICC - "to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrants."
He said that until now South Africa "has always contributed to the strengthening of the court." Bashir has avoided travelling to South Africa in the past, and has attended neither the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma nor the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
His decision to attend the AU summit presents the South African Government with an unprecedented challenge: either to obey a law which as a member of the court it has sworn to uphold, or to defy the law in the interests of solidarity with African leaders who are campaigning for Africa to pull out of the court. Among those leaders are Bashir and President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has in the past faced charges arising out of election violence in Kenya.
In 2009, South Africa's foreign ministry said Bashir would have to be arrested if he came to South Africa. In 2013 Bashir travelled to Nigeria, also a member of the court, for an HIV conference but left the country within 24 hours after an outcry over his presence.
In Saturday's ICC statement, Sidiki Kaba expressed "deep concern about the negative consequences for the court (ICC) in case of non-execution of the warrants by states parties and, in this regard, urges them to respect their obligations to cooperate with the Court."
Kaba is president of the "Assembly of States to the Rome Statute". The statute is the international treaty which established the court and the assembly comprises nations which have signed up to the statute.
Senegal was the first country in the world to subscribe to the statute and Kaba is the first African to head the assembly. One of Africa's most distinguished human rights lawyers, he has defended figures ranging from former president Laurent Gbagbo and Simone Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire to Guinea's Alpha Condé and Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade.