Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One law for you, another law for dictators and tyrants

The South African government has betrayed “the hundreds of thousands of victims who were killed during the Darfur conflict”‚ Amnesty International said. “By failing to hand President Omar al-Bashir over to the (International Criminal Court) during his stay in the country‚ the South African authorities‚ under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma‚ have through their inaction‚ aided Bashir in his quest to avoid justice‚” the human rights watchdog said. "It is completely unacceptable and shocking for South Africa‚ as a member of the ICC‚ to ignore its international obligations in this way and allow impunity free rein‚” said Amnesty’s research and advocacy director for Africa Netsanet Belay.

Bashir stands accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict in Darfur‚ Sudan‚ which has claimed more than 400 000 lives and displaced more than 2-million. The ICC has two warrants of arrest against him issued in 2009 and 2010. He is facing seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity as well as three counts of genocide.

Al-Bashir was in this country for the 25th African Union (AU) Summit which was originally planned to be held in Malawi that then declined on account of the Sudanese president’s presence. Zuma and his cabinet knew full well that they did not have the power to grant Bashir diplomatic immunity when it stepped in to host the international conference. South Africa had an international legal obligation to arrest Bashir. UN secretary general Ban Ki- Moon made this explicit in his statement.

South African courts issued an order to prevent Bashir from leaving the country, applying the rule of law without fear or favour and upholding the constitution of South Africa. By permitting Bashir to depart‚ the minister of home affairs‚ Malusi Gigaba‚ and the government itself are in contempt of court. There must be consequences for such a serious disregard for the law unless the message that is to be sent is that South Africa does not believe in the due process of justice.  The rule of law is only as strong as the government which enforces it and the South Africa government have knowingly allowed a fugitive from justice to flee and aided and abetted the escape.

Of course, many will point the finger at the inefficiency of international law, the biased enforcement of it, and how Blair and Bush have never even been charged much less detained for their illegal crimes against humanity. But two wrongs don't make a right.

No comments: