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South African Court Orders Sudan's President Detained For War Crimes

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks to the crowd after a swearing-in ceremony at green square in Khartoum, earlier this month. A South African court has ordered al-Bashir, who is attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, to be detained on an international war crimes warrant. Reuters/Landov hide caption

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Reuters/Landov

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks to the crowd after a swearing-in ceremony at green square in Khartoum, earlier this month. A South African court has ordered al-Bashir, who is attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, to be detained on an international war crimes warrant.

Reuters/Landov

Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET

A South African judge has issued an interim order to prevent visiting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir from leaving the country due to an international warrant for his arrest on charges of human rights violations.

The International Criminal Court has called on South Africa to arrest al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity over atrocities allegedly committed in the conflict in Darfur.

Judge Hans Fabricuis urged the South African government to take "all necessary steps" to prevent al-Bashir from leaving the country, but he postponed until Monday a hearing on whether to order the Sudanese leader's arrest on the ICC warrant.

But an arrest warrant for al-Bashir could prove moot after all. South Africa's Eyewitness News quotes Sudan's Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman as saying the Sudanese president has already left Johannesburg and is on his way home.

Reuters, quoting local media, reports that Fabricuis said if al-Bashir were allowed to leave, it would damage South Africa's reputation.

Even so, South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) declared soon afterward that the ICC is "no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended," according to Reuters, which said "[An] arrest in South Africa appears unlikely because President Jacob Zuma's government has given immunity to any leader or delegate attending the AU summit."

The African Union "has asked the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against sitting presidents and will not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the court," The Associated Press adds.

The AP says:

"If al-Bashir is not arrested, the matter will be reported to the court's assembly of states and the United Nations Security Council, which first referred the case of Sudan's Darfur region to the International Criminal Court in 2005, she said.

"The charges against al-Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup, stem from reported atrocities in the conflict in Darfur, in which 300,000 people were killed and 2 million displaced in the government's campaign, according to United Nations figures."