Bashir Bonanza

Like Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the "family photograph" at the AU summit in Johannesburg
Monday, June 15, 2015 - 15:13

By Niklas Jakobsson

We all know the saying "in the wrong place at the wrong time”. For me, that was the case yesterday as I was traveling back from a fascinating PhD Workshop on Justice for Victims of Mass Atrocities at Queen’s University Belfast. A quick glance at my tweet feed at the airport revealed the largest and most intense version of #BashirWatch I had ever seen.

Omar al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, had decided to spin the wheel of fortune and head to South Africa for the African Union summit. Labelled by some as hubris, others saw his decision to attend as evidence of the International Criminal Court’s lack of legitimacy.

As soon as al-Bashir set foot on South African soil, Twitter exploded with calls for his arrest.

Judge Cuno Tarfusser at the ICC was quick to act, issuing a statement which directed the South African government to fulfill its duties under the Rome Statue and arrest al-Bashir.

#BashirWatch took a new and exciting turn when it was announced that a local court would hear arguments for and against Bashir being allowed to leave the country. After deliberations on Sunday, the presiding judge ruled that Omar al-Bashir should not be allowed to leave the country and the hearing would continue Monday.

One observant member of the online International Justice community found an interesting link between the ongoing case against Dominic Ongwen and Omar al-Bashir. Maybe Fatou Bensouda is on to something here?

As today’s proceedings began in the South African court, the representatives for the government declared that al-Bashir was possibly still in the country.

Then they went on to ask for an adjournment until 14:00 local time. The judges decided to adjourn the proceedings until 13:00. And what happened next probably surprised all of zero people. Steady reports started coming out of Omar al-Bashir boarding his flight and leaving the country.

Despite this the court proceedings resumed, and the representative of the government of South Africa provided some brilliant thoughts on where President al-Bashir might be located.

As I finish up this Hubble, the proceedings are still underway. But unfortunately they seem to be pointless. From several independent organisations and people, it has been confirmed that president al-Bashir has indeed left South Africa.


  • Will there be any repercussions for the South African government?
  • Which side of the legal arguments of immunity do you take and why?
  • What does this say about the ICC’s legitimacy? 

Lead image: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the "family photograph" at the AU summit in Johannesburg (Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA)

The Weekly Hubble features the most popular or controversial international justice story of the past week and reactions on social media to the news.

Gbenga Ogunrinde

Let us be real. Omar Al Bashir is serving a sovereign country. My legal mind is not focusing on the allegation, however the immunity of serving heads of state is inviolable.

Monday, June 15, 2015 - 19:29