South Africa court bid to arrest Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir

The court says President Bashir will have to stay until the court hears an application later on Sunday on whether he should be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mr Bashir is in Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) summit.

As the court prepared to hear the case, he posed for a group photo.

Earlier President Bashir was welcomed by South African officials as he arrived in Johannesburg.

He is wanted by the ICC on war crimes and genocide charges over the Darfur conflict.

However, there are tensions between the ICC and the AU, with some on the continent accusing the court of unfairly targeting Africans. The AU has previously urged the ICC to stop proceedings against sitting leaders.

The warrants against Mr Bashir, who denies the allegations, have severely restricted his overseas travel.

He has, however, visited friendly states in Africa and the Middle East.

The ICC has issued two arrest warrants against Mr Bashir. The court relies on member states to carry out arrests.

However correspondents have said the South African government – a signatory to the treaty establishing the ICC – is unlikely to move against the Sudanese leader.

South Africa’s governing African National Congress said immunity had been granted to “all (summit) participants as part of the international norms for countries hosting such gathering of the AU or even the United Nations”.

Human rights organisations and South Africa’s main opposition party have also called for Mr Bashir’s arrest.

Darfur has been in conflict since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government. The UN says more than 300,000 people have died, mostly from disease. Hundreds of villages have been attacked.

More than two million people – about a third of the population – have fled their homes. Sudanese forces and allied militias are accused of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs.

The Johannesburg summit is chaired by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who holds the rotating presidency of the AU. The official theme is Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development.

But the political turmoil in Burundi, crisis in South Sudan and the recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa are also likely to feature heavily.

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