South Africa’s lawyer has told the International Criminal Court Friday that it was under no obligation to arrest Omar Hassan al-Bashir during his visit to the country two years ago even though he was wanted by the court.
“There is no duty under international law and the Rome Statute to arrest a serving head of state of a non-state-party such as Omar al-Bashir,” South African legal representative Dire Tladi argued at the court.
Prosecutors said judges should refer South Africa to the United Nations Security Council or the court’s assembly of member states for defying its arrest warrant.
“Without cooperation from the state parties in the arrest and surrender (of suspects) the court will be unable to carry out its most basic function,” said prosecutor Julian Nicholls.
The judges in The Hague will have to decide whether the country violated its obligations by not arresting Bashir and handing him over.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute which underpins the world’s only permanent war crimes court.
In 2005, the UN Security Council asked the ICC to probe crimes in the western Sudan region of Darfur, where according to UN figures, some 330 000 people have been killed in a conflict between Khartoum and mostly black African insurgents.
The tribunal issued arrest warrants in 2009 and 2010 for Bashir for alleged crimes related to the conflict. He has steadfastly denied the charges.