By Wyndham Hartley
CAPE TOWN — Pressure on President Jacob Zuma to distance himself from the African Union (AU) decision to ignore the arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir mounted yesterday when a host of civil society organisations and prominent South Africans urged him to honour treaty obligations.
SA is a signatory to the Rome Statute under which the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established. Because the treaty has been ratified by Parliament, for SA to not observe its obligations is arguably unconstitutional and against the law. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for al- Bashir and this requires signatory states to execute the warrant should he land on their soil.
At the recent AU summit in Libya it was decided by African leaders that the continent would collectively ignore the warrant.
Yesterday, human rights organisations in SA, including the statutory Human Rights Commission, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the Centre for Human Rights at Pretoria University, the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the Human Rights Institute of SA, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Institute for Security Studies, the Khulumani Support Group, the Legal Resources Centre and Lawyers for Human Rights, called for the government to abide by SA's ICC obligations and to distance itself from the AU position.
The organisations were joined in the statement by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and former judge of the Constitutional Court; Adv Dumisa Ntsebeza, a member of the international commission of inquiry on Darfur appointed in terms of United Nations resolution 1564; Kader Asmal, the former minister and honorary professor at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of the Western Cape; Hugh Corder, a professor of public law at UCT; Yasmin Sooka, a former truth commission commissioner; Prof John Dugard of the Centre for Human Rights, Pretoria University; Jody Kollapen, chairman of the South African Human Rights Commission; and Karthy Govender, of the South African Human Rights Commission and professor of law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The group said Zuma and International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane were present at the AU meeting when the decision was approved to ignore the ICC warrant and "neither the president nor the foreign minister is reported to have raised any objections .
"SA's endorsement of the declaration requires it to break its international treaty obligations and to defy its own law and constitution . As a state party to the Rome Statute, SA is obliged to co-operate fully with the ICC in the arrest and transfer of President al-Bashir to the ICC, whether or not it agrees with the indictment.
"Should the South African government persist with its support for the decision, it will do so in open defiance of its own constitution and law."
In Business Day .