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Conflicting reports on Sudanese president's whereabouts

Conflicting reports on Sudanese presidents whereabouts

Johannesburg: As a Pretoria judge on Monday prepared to rule on whether South African authorities must arrest visiting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for "crimes against humanity", there were conflicting reports about his whereabouts.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said that one of its reporters saw al-Bashir outside a hotel near the Sandton International Convention Centre where the 25th session of the African Union (AU) Summit has been taking place since Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

But, according to a BBC report, al-Bashir has left South Africa and was expected to land in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum later in the day.

Justice Hans Fabricious of the Pretoria High Court on Sunday issued an order that bars al-Bashir from leaving South Africa. Fabricious issued an interim order preventing the Sudanese president from leaving South Africa, pending a decision of the court, to be made after an urgent application that he be arrested is made.

Different media sources, quoting Sudan's information minister in Khartoum, reported on Monday that al-Bashir had fled South Africa after attending the first day of the 25th session of the African Union (AU) summit held in Sandton on Sunday.

Al-Bashir participated in the official opening of the summit and was still in the summit venue after 8.00 p.m. when he attended a meeting of the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development concerning the crisis in South Sudan.

Sudan's Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, who is also at the summit, told journalists that al-Bashir would remain in South Africa until the summit ends on Monday.

Al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against some of the tribes of Sudan's western region of Darfur.

Two warrants of arrest were issued against him in 2009 and 2010. As a member of the ICC, South Africa is obliged to arrest him and surrender him to the ICC.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the ICC's warrant for the arrest of al-Bashir must be implemented by countries who have signed up to the court's statutes.

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".

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