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ICC gives SA more time to explain Bashir arrest failure

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Thursday it will give South Africa more time to explain why it defied an order to arrest Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, extending the deadline until a Pretoria court finalises the case.

The Hague-based court’s decision comes after it originally gave Pretoria until October 5 to defend its failure to detain Bashir when he landed in the country in June to attend an African Union summit.

“The Chamber grants South Africa’s request for an extension of the time-limit to submit its views on the events surrounding Omar al-Bashir’s visit… until such time as the currently ongoing relevant judicial proceedings before the courts of South Africa are finalised,” the ICC said in a statement.

Bashir is wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed against civilians in Sudan’s vast Darfur region, where the UN says about 300 000 people were killed and 2.5 million others forced to flee their homes in a deadly conflict.

Khartoum puts the death toll at 10, 000.

The ICC also ordered South Africa to “promptly report… any developments in the relevant judicial proceedings as they occur”.

“Should no such developments occur prior to December 15 2015,” South Africa must submit a report on the “status of judicial proceedings no later than 31 December 2015”, the ICC added.

South Africa’s High Court last month denied government the leave to appeal against a local court ruling that it should have arrested Bashir when he attended the AU summit in mid-June.

Pretoria said it would now pursue the case in a higher court.

The government allowed Bashir to fly out of the country despite a court order blocking his departure, arguing that he had immunity from arrest during his visit.

The government maintained that its obligations to the AU, which included granting immunity to attending heads of state, trumped the laws of the ICC.

South Africa’s failure to arrest Bashir sparked international condemnation, which was met with a threat from Pretoria to withdraw its membership of the international court, set up in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes.

Bashir has evaded justice since his indictment in 2009 for alleged crimes committed in the Darfur conflict and has in the past visited several other countries including other ICC member states. News24

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