June 2015 - Posts
June 21, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – South African government agencies drafted plans to apprehend Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir during his participation in the African Union (AU) summit should the High Court issue an order to this effect, according to a news report.
Bashir’s attendance drew widespread controversy both inside and outside South Africa given his status as an individual wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur since 2003.
South Africa, as an ICC member, was theoretically obliged to arrest Bashir but chose not to on the grounds that he enjoys immunity as one of the delegations attending the AU summit.
The government also defied a local judge order asking it to prevent the Sudanese leader from leaving the country until a case brought by Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) to compel the arrest Bashir was heard.
But this order was also ignored by president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet and Bashir managed to fly out few hours before the North Gauteng High Court dismissed government’s immunity arguments and ordered his arrest to surrender him to the ICC.
Government then suggested that Bashir left the country without their knowledge. Per court orders they are required to submit an affidavit next week detailing how Bashir was allowed to return home.
A newspaper report published on Sunday however, suggested that several government agencies were readying to take Bashir into custody.
South Africa’s City Press said that a text message was sent at 6:15 pm local time to National Joint Operations (NATJOINTS) which is comprised of intelligence and security bodies.
“Re Sudan court order. All respective committees at NATJOINTS [National Joint Operations] were given tasks to come up with ops plans by 08:00 tomorrow morning,” the message reads in part.
“If an order is given to arrest Sudanese HoS. [al-Bashir] DHA DG [Department of Home Affairs Director-General] who is currently in court with the litigation personnel will give an instruction thereafter as to what needs to happen. BCOCC [border control operational coordinating committee] will have to ensure that that instruction is given to all ports of entry tonight whilst we are waiting upon DHA instruction.”
"The Home Ministry’s Director General is currently in court with the lawyers and he will instruct on what should happen,".
It is not clear who gave the order to government security agencies to hold back on their operational plans so the Sudanese president could slip out of South Africa safely.
Insiders involved in making the arrangements said the movement schedule, which the department of international relations sends out daily, showed that the department had not been consulted in the “escape plan” or that another department had taken over the arrangements for al-Bashir’s movements. It is not clear which department that is.
City Press said that the operational documentation for the AU summit showed that Bashir left a day earlier.
Bashir was scheduled to take off from O. R. Tambo International Airport on Tuesday June 16 at 11:00 am but ended up leaving from Waterkloof military airbase shortly before noon on Monday June 15.
City Press further said that Bashir’s security detail requested five extra pieces of weaponry in anticipation of any arrest attempt.
“5 firearms and 70 ammunition. They are requesting for 5 additional firearms” the document reads.
South African border police officers stamp such weapons authorizations upon entry into the country, and again when they leave.
South Africa’s Sunday Times said that other parts of the government including the presidency, defense and police ministry were determined to protect Bashir’s stay in South Africa - even if it meant flouting court rulings and undermining the constitution.
A representative of al-Bashir additionally approached Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who currently chairs the AU, and AU commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – President Zuma’s former wife – to confirm al-Bashir would not be arrested and handed over to the ICC.
But as the court case proceeded, Bashir and his entourage started getting concerned.
The Sunday Times said word had spread that Bashir had been tipped off that he must leave "because the case did not bode well for him", and he was escorted by members of the police force’s Presidential Protection Unit to his plane at a military air base.
“When people were making noise on Sunday that he must be arrested, we just told Bashir to relax,” a security service source was quoted as saying.
“We had given him the assurance. We just told him he was going home and we would deal with the court later,” the source added.
Another source said that senior government ministers at an AU summit gala dinner “were gloating on how they are going to teach the judges a lesson by secretly arranging for Bashir to leave before the matter is heard in court.”
June 18, 2015 (Washington) - President Obama marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday, offering his “warmest greetings” to those celebrating in the United States and abroad.
“Muslims honor each day of Ramadan as a day of patient endurance through fasting, and each night as a night of gratitude through prayers,” Obama said in a statement. “It is a time to reinforce faith, compassion and forgiveness, and perseverance through adversity.”
The president added that during Ramadan, “Muslims around the globe reach out to assist those afflicted by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease,” a nod to the violent conflict raging in the Middle East.
The advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Syrian civil war have forced millions of people from their homes. A Global Peace Index report found a third of the world’s refugees come from those two countries, according to The Atlantic.
A U.S.-led coalition is fighting the group, assisting Iraqi ground forces with training, equipment and airstrikes. The Obama administration has also pledged more than $400 million in aid to displaced Iraqis since last year.
Obama said he will welcome American Muslims to the White House for an annual iftar dinner at the conclusion of the holy month.
“Here in the United States, American Muslims join their fellow citizens to serve the less fortunate, hosting inter-faith activities that build understanding and remind us that we stand together as one American family,” the president said. “The diversity and patriotism of America’s religious communities give strength to all of us, and our freedom to worship reminds us of the values we share.”
June 15, 2015 (WASHINGTON/KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir left South Africa few hours before judges at the High Court handed down a decision ordering his arrest and rapping the government for what it described as a violation of the constitution.
"The respondents are forthwith compelled to take all reasonable steps to arrest President Bashir ... and detain him pending a formal request for his surrender from the International Criminal Court," presiding Judge Dunstan Mlambo was quoted as saying by local South African media.
Bashir has left around noon local time as the High Court was listening to arguments from the government attorney and the one representing Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC).
The government attorney asserted to court in the first part of the proceedings that he believes that Bashir is still in the country.
He went on to say that the list of passengers on the Sudanese presidential plane submitted to the control tower at the Waterkloof airbase did not include the name of Bashir.
The arguments were then focused on the issue of immunity for the Sudanese leader who was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2009 & 2010 over alleged war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during the Darfur conflict.
But the government underscored that despite South Africa being a state party to the ICC founding statute and having incorporated it into its constitution, Bashir is covered by the Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act .
He also said that Bashir as one of the delegations attending the African Union (AU) summit hosted by South Africa has been granted blanket immunity per this act and for the purposes of this regional summit. .
The judge then asked the government attorney whether Bashir would be liable for arrest should he be South Africa for a vacation.
"Yes" was the direct response by the government attorney.
Before the adjournment of the first session the government attorney affirmed his position that Bashir has not left the country.
After the court session resumed, the government attorney said that he received notification from the South African presidency and Department of International Relations and Cooperation that the Sudanese president flew out.
He explained that the government will initiate an inquiry into how Bashir was able to leave the country despite a previous order barring his departure from the country pending a decision into the case.
Mlambo expressed concern that Bashir was allowed to leave despite the court order and ordered the government to file an affidavit explaining how that happened in what appears a step before determining who will be held in contempt of court.
"It is of concern to us, as a court that an order issued was ignored" he said.
BASHIR TO RECEIVE HERO WELCOME IN KHARTOUM
Bashir is expected to arrive at 6:30 PM in the evening and will be met by a crowd of supporters mobilized by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
The Sudanese Minister of State at the Ministry of Information Yasser Youssef confirmed on Monday that President Omar Hassan al-Bashir left Johannesburg.
Sudan News Agency (SUNA) said that the Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour will hold a press conference on Monday at Khartoum airport immediately upon the return of President Bashir and his delegation.
Meanwhile, youth organizations and NCP-affiliated entities called for people to come to Khartoum airport on Monday afternoon to receive the president.
CRITICISM OF SOUTH AFRICA
Bashir’s arrival and departure from South Africa unhindered has angered NGO’s and human rights groups.
“This is a sad day for South Africa and a blow to the rule of law,” said Anton du Plessis, managing director of the Institute for Security Studies, an African think-tank.
“Until now, the country has been a champion of international justice and has done more than most in Africa to make sure victims get justice" he told the Globe and Mail newspaper.
Earlier on Monday, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said South Africa must arrest Bashir to fulfill its obligations to the international court.
"The International Criminal Court’s warrant for the arrest of President al-Bashir on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes is a matter I take extremely seriously," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Geneva.
"The authority of the ICC must be respected and its decision implemented," Ban added.
Elise Keppler, acting director of international justice at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that "by allowing this shameful flight, the South African government has disregarded not only its international obligations, but its own courts".
“When Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir took off from South Africa today, he took with him the hopes of thousands of victims of grave crimes in Darfur who wish at last to see justice done,” she said.
“An opportunity was missed, but a clear message has been sent to Bashir that he is not safe from arrest.”
Saturday 13 June 2015– JOHANNESBURG - A Sudanese airplane with the call sign Sudan01 arrived in South Africa on Saturday at around 1500 GMT (5pm CAT). The 01 call sign usually reserved for presidents.
SUDANESE president Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, is no longer keeping the continent guessing over whether he will be attending the African Union summit in South Africa.
Bashir reportedly landed in South Africa on Saturday evening, and is set to attend the summit’s heads of state sessions on Sunday.
South Africa, as a member of the ICC, is obligated to apprehend the president, but its officials had been at great pains to avoid talking about the issue.
Bashir’s information minister Ahmed Bilal Osman on Friday set the ball rolling as he said his boss would attend the summit, a position which was reinforced by official radio.
The president was also absent at the airport where he had been expected to see off Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerkim, who had been visiting.
Bashir had been listed on the official programme of the African Peer Review Mechanism, but his message was instead read by a representative, further obfuscating whether he would attend.
That matter was laid to rest when South African media reported that he had touched down at Waterkloof Airforce base.
While South Africa has in the past twice threatened to arrest Bashir, it finds itself in a particularly difficult place this time round.
The country has been on a charm offensive to placate African countries following a regional backlash that followed xenophobic attacks which left seven people killed, the majority African nationals.
South African authorities came in for strong criticism by other African nations over their handling of the attacks. Pretoria would thus be unwilling to to want to stir up another diplomatic storm with the continent.
The AU in 2009 voted not to cooperate with the world court, arguing that indictments were only targeting African leaders.
While Bashir’s presence on South African soil will be scrutinised closely, there may be wriggling space.
One way out would be for local officials to point out that the meeting has been called by the African Union, and not the host, and that it had originally been meant to take place in Chad.
This can have varied outcomes. In September 2013 Bashir cancelled a visit to the UN General Assembly as US authorities prevaricated on granting him a visa.
Bashar had in the weeks before been vocal in demanding a visa to travel to the UN headquarters, noting that Sudan is a full member of the General Assembly.
He had even booked a hotel room in New York, knowing his argument held weight: ordinarily, United Nations territory is considered extra-national, in that it is exempt from the jurisdiction of domestic law.
This means that the US law enforcement authorities do not have the right to enter its territory at will to arrest Bashir, even if on American soil. (This is why President Robert Mugabe can go to Vatican City, despite travel sanctions barring him from EU territory.)
Under the UN Headquarters Agreement, the US was obliged to facilitate Bashir’s trip, a fact reluctantly acknowledged by the numerous pressure groups that had lined up to oppose his travel.
In the end Bashir threw in the towel, but not before having lit a very uncomfortable fire under Washington’s feet. Interestingly, it was never disclosed if he had been granted a visa.
The challenge for the AU however is that the meeting is not taking place at its headquarters, but it could insist invitations to member states are not based on geography.
The other option would be to bog the process of apprehending him in legal red tape, so that by the time there is a legal process to arrest him the president would have left the country.
This has been also tried successfully in the past: In July the same year Bashir popped in and out of Nigeria where an AU summit on HIV/Aids was underway.
Bashir was in Abuja for less than a day despite being a two-day summit, with both his office and Nigerian hosts denying he had left early fearing arrest, as civil rights bodies rushed off to court.
“President Bashir returned normally to Khartoum after participating in the summit in Abuja to resume his work in Khartoum,” news agency Reuters quoted his press secretary Emad Said as saying.
Nigeria said its decision to allow him in was in keeping with the 2009 AU vote not to cooperate with the ICC, and that he had come in under the invitation of the AU.
Either way Bashir’s very presence suggests he will be a comfortable guest in South Africa.
June 6, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has formed a new government with changes to the defense, foreign affairs and oil portfolios, state television said Saturday.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, was sworn in for a new five-year term Tuesday.
State television reported that Mohamed Zayed would take over the oil ministry, Ibrahim Ghandour will become Sudan's foreign minister and Lieutenant-General Mostafa Osman Abeed has been appointed acting defense minister.
At his inauguration, Bashir, 71, promised to fight corruption, improve the economy and bring relations with the West back to what he called their "natural state."
He also vowed to bring peace to three separate regions where armed groups are fighting to topple his government: Blue Nile, Darfur and Kordofan. The president repeated his offer of total amnesty to any armed rebel who joins peace talks.
Bashir has ruled Sudan for 25 years. The country has been battered not only by armed rebellion but also by international sanctions and the loss of oil revenue when South Sudan gained independence.
The ICC has issued a global arrest warrant for Bashir, who is charged with war crimes and genocide for sending the army and backing Arab militias to put down an armed uprising in Darfur in 2003.
The United Nations said fighting in the impoverished region has killed 300,000 people and created more than 2 million refugees. Most of the victims have been civilians.
June 2, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir issued a decree on Tuesday night dissolving the government and relieving his aides in preparation for the formation of the new cabinet following the beginning of his new term today.
The decree did not mandate undersecretaries to run the ministries in the interim which suggested that the announcement of the new cabinet is imminent.
Earlier today, presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour who also holds the position of ruling National Congress Party (NCP) deputy chairman said that the new cabinet will be announced in the next 48 hours.
Ghandour said that there will be no presidential advisers and a maximum of 5 presidential assistants.
He also downplayed announcements by several parties that they will not join the new cabinet saying that “not all parties should be part of the government”.
President Bashir has said earlier this year that only parties which contested in April’s general elections will be offered posts in the government.
The Federal Truth party (FTP) has been excluded from the new cabinet while the United Umma Party (UUP) rejected the NCP offer for ministerial posts on the grounds that it is not compatible with their political stature.
Last week, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani announced that it will not join the government for the same reasons spelled out by the UUP.
But the NCP swiftly denied the DUP declaration stressing that consultations between the two sides are ongoing.
It is understood that the NCP offered the DUP the same posts it currently holds in the cabinet which includes three federal ministries, two state ministers and other posts on the state level.
The NCP said it will look into the DUP’s request for an additional post without committing to it which aggravated al-Hassan al-Mirghani who is currently running the party as his father is still out of the country.
The DUP was considered the second largest northern opposition party until December 2011 when it left opposition ranks and joined the joined the NCP-dominated “broad-based” government.
June 02, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was sworn in on Tuesday for another five years after he swept elections in April marked by a low turnout and an opposition boycott.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, won the elections with more than 94 percent of the vote.
The 71-year-old career soldier took the oath at the national assembly in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman in front of members of parliament, military chiefs and foreign leaders and representatives, an AFP correspondent said.
Dressed in traditional gleaming white robes and a turban, a stern-looking Bashir made his vow on the Koran.
Presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya all attended the ceremony.
Bashir seized power in a 1989 Islamist-backed coup and won a 2010 election that was criticised for failing to meet international standards and was boycotted by the opposition.
Ethnic insurgents launched a rebellion in the western region of Darfur in 2003 and Bashir government's unleashed the armed forces and allied militiamen.
More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, the United Nations says, and more than two million displaced.
The ICC indicted Bashir in 2009 for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity and in 2010 for genocide.