ICC set to issue major ruling in legal and political dispute with South Africa

05 July 2017 by Benjamin Duerr, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) rule on Thursday whether South Africa had the obligation to arrest the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, during an official visit. What are the legal and political issues at stake?

South African president Jacob Zuma meets Omar al-Bashir on a 2015 visit to Sudan (Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA)
Image caption: 
South African president Jacob Zuma meets Omar al-Bashir on a 2015 visit to Sudan (Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA)

A few days before the ICC begins its summer recess at the end of July, the three judges of pre-trial chamber 1 will hand down a major decision in one of the court's most important cases.

On Thursday afternoon, the judges rule on whether South Africa had an obligation to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir when he attended an international summit in Johannesburg in 2015 (IJT-184). The decision could have major legal and political consequences.

Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, has been traveling to various countries but authorities have so far refrained from arresting him. Under international law, heads of states enjoy immunity from prosecution, but article 27 of the ICC's founding treaty removes these exemptions.

ICC to rule on immunity of Bashir

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