KHARTOUM –– Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has returned to Khartoum from South Africa, avoiding arrest over war crimes charges on an international warrant.
Bashir flew out of South Africa despite an order barring him from leaving while a Pretoria court decided whether to arrest him on charges issued by the International Criminal Court.
Bashir was visiting Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) summit.
An ICC official said the failure to arrest Bashir was “disappointing”.
“We still remain quietly optimistic and determined to see justice done in this case,” deputy prosecutor James Stewart told the BBC.
The Pretoria High Court issued an order for Bashir’s arrest hours after his aircraft left the country.
A South African judge, Dunstan Mlambo, meanwhile said the failure to arrest Bashir had violated the country’s constitution.
However, Sudan described the attempt to arrest Bashir as “lame and meaningless”.
Foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters at Khartoum Airport that the court order was an attack on Sudanese sovereignty.
Bashir arrived at the airport this evening, dressed in white robes and waving a cane. He was greeted by cheering supporters.
The Sudanese leader is accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during the Darfur conflict.
The UN says that about 300,000 people in Sudan have died since fighting began in 2003. More than 1.4 million people are thought to have fled their homes.
Government forces and allied Arab militias are accused of targeting black African civilians in the fight against rebels.
It is unlikely that South Africa will face sanctions for allowing Bashir to leave the country even after a court order barred him from doing so, says the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Pretoria.
A number of African countries have in the past decided not to cooperate with the ICC. The court has been accused of racism and bias against African leaders.
So as things stand, Bashir appears to have left South Africa with the blessing of the African Union, our correspondent says.
Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the ICC’s warrant for the arrest of Bashir must be implemented by countries who have signed up to the court’s statutes.
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest anyone charged by the court.
Before the summit, the ICC issued a Press statement urging the South African government “to spare no effort in ensuring the execution of the arrest warrant”.
Kenneth Roth, the director of advocacy group Human Rights Watch, tweeted that South Africa appeared to have “shamefully flouted” the ICC and domestic court to free a man “wanted for mass murder of Africans”.