South Africa has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it was under no obligation to arrest Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in 2015, when he visited the country for an African Union (AU) summit.
South Africa is currently appearing in the pre-trial chamber of the ICC to account for its failure to arrest Al-Bashir. The ICC has issued two warrants of arrest for Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity, including genocide and war crimes.
South Africa allowed Al-Bashir to leave the country, arguing that he had diplomatic immunity. South Africa later tried to leave the ICC, but had to retract this decision when it was overturned in court, because the government had acted without consulting Parliament.
The ICC invited South Africa to make representations on the matter and will decide whether South Africa failed to comply with its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The matter may be referred to the Assembly of States Parties (Assembly) if South Africa is found to have failed in its duties as a Rome Statute signatory.
On Friday, Professor Dire Tladi, an international law expert argued on behalf of South Africa that there was no unimpeded travel provided specifically for Al-Bashir in 2015. Instead, he said provisions were made for the AU as a whole.
Tladi said the case had far-reaching consequences regarding the immunity of many heads of state, and the integrity of the Rome Statute.
He said South Africa had no obligation to arrest Al-Bashir, and said that South Africa intended to argue that any duty on it to arrest him was not clear.