The North Gauteng High Court has — for now — ordered the South African government to detain Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.
Judge Hans Fabricius ordered that South Africa prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country until a final order has been issued this afternoon on whether it is legally acceptable for Pretoria to allow al-Bashir to visit the country without detaining him.
An urgent application by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre to have al-Bashir arrested and handed over to the International Criminal Court will be heard at 3pm this afternoon.
The Justice Ministry requested that it be allowed some time to prepare its legal argument.
Judge Fabricius asked the South African government to tell the court how a Cabinet decision could override an international treaty. The government apparently believes their decision trumps the treaty.
It is believed that Cabinet took a decision to allow al-Bashir to attend the AU summit despite a warrant of arrest by the International Criminal Court against him for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Darfur conflict that killed more than 300 000.
The court is later expected to determine if the ICC warrant to arrest al-Bashir is lawful and whether South Africa is obliged to enforce it.
Al-Bashir was all smiles during a group photograph of African heads of state on Saturday. Also posing for the photograph was President Jacob Zuma.
The respondents to the SALC’s court application include the ministries of justice, police, home affairs and international relations and cooperation.