Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has returned to Khartoum from South Africa, in defiance of a Pretoria court that later said he should have been arrested to face genocide charges at the International Criminal Court.
Despite a legal order for him to stay in the country ahead of the ruling on his detention, the government let Bashir leave unhindered, Reuters reported.
South Africa’s ruling party accused the ICC of being biased against Africans and “no longer useful”.
Bashir has been indicted by the ICC over war crimes and crimes against humanity but South Africa gave him immunity along with all delegates attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg this week.
As an ICC signatory, South Africa was obliged to implement arrest warrants.
The decision to let Bashir leave represented a blow for the Hague-based ICC, which has convicted just two minor African warlords since it started work in 2002 and has struggled to create accountability for those who are too powerful to be tried at home, the news agency said.
Hours after Bashir left, judge Dunstan Mlambo found in favor of an application by a rights group calling for him to be detained, saying the failure to arrest him contravened the constitution.
“The respondents are forthwith compelled to take all reasonable steps to arrest President Bashir,” Mlambo said.
Government lawyer William Mokhari said the home affairs department would be investigating Bashir’s departure.
Bashir arrived in Khartoum to throngs of well-wishers and government officials inside the airport.
Wearing traditional white robes, Bashir waved his trademark cane greeting the cheering crowd in an open-topped vehicle.
Waving the Sudanese flag, the crowd chanted God is Great and some carried pictures of Bashir with the banner “Lion of Africa”.
Sudan’s foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour said Africa’s enemies were behind the failed bid.
Ghandour said the South African government had assured Sudan that Bashir’s participation at the summit was a source of pride and that President Jacob Zuma had blamed opposition parties trying to embarrass Pretoria.
“This is a case of state sovereignty. Here we have a president elected and supported by his people. I don’t have to point to the elections as I can simply point to this scene right here,” he said referring to the boisterous crowd.
Bashir was re-elected in April in a vote boycotted by most of the opposition, thereby extending his quarter-century rule.
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