The government of South Africa has denied secretly plotting a safe exit from the country for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, despite an international arrest warrant on war crimes charges.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity over the conflict in Darfur, flew out of Pretoria last Monday despite a court order that barred his departure.
South Africa’s Sunday Times had reported that there was a secret meeting of top ministers where Bashir’s escape was hatched. It alleged that Bashir was escorted from Johannesburg, where he attended an African Union summit, to his plane in Pretoria by President Jacob Zuma’s personal security detail.
But the authorities said no such meeting took place.
“Government categorically denies that there was a secret meeting held by the security cluster ministers,” government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said in a statement.
The government has come under fire from the ICC, rights groups, several other governments and by the opposition at home, over its failure to detain Bashir.
The High Court in Pretoria ordered the government to explain this week why it defied the order that barred Bashir from leaving.
Williams said the government is “expected to provide the court with a report that explains how President al-Bashir left the country”.
Meanwhile, parliament will on Tuesday debate the issues surrounding Bashir’s departure, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party said Monday.
The DA will also ask South Africa’s ombudsman to investigate whether any public officials abused their powers to facilitate Bashir’s departure from the country.
“It’s clear that a number of individuals including the president, ministers … have abused their powers, firstly by ignoring the court order and secondly by ignoring the constitutional obligation to detain him,” DA spokesman Marius Redelinghuys told AFP.
Bashir has evaded justice since his indictment in 2009 for alleged serious abuses in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. The conflict began in 2003 when black insurgents rose up against his Arab-dominated government, protesting they were marginalised.