South African non-governmental organisations are on a collision course with government after the decision of the African Union not to co-operate with the International Criminal Court over the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.
The organisations - including the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Khulumani Support Group and Lawyers for Human Rights - will petition President Jacob Zuma and his government to take a stand against the AU's position.
The ICC has issued a warrant for al-Bashir to be detained and arrested over war crimes in Darfur.
As many as 300000 people have died and more than two million have fled the desert region in the west of Sudan since early 2000, when Darfuri rebel groups began attacking government targets, accusing Khartoum of oppressing black Africans in favour of Arabs. Al-Bashir's government responded by mobilising "self-defence militias" that included the notorious Janjaweed gunmen.
The organisations said that the AU's July 3 decision to withhold co-operation was in violation of South Africa's constitution. It said South Africa's representatives at the AU meeting had reportedly not objected to the decision, despite the fact that the meeting's declaration "requires it to break its international treaty obligations and to defy its own law and constitution".
The coalition said South Africa was one of the first countries to ratify the ICC's Rome Statute into domestic law - making it binding on South Africa to arrest al-Bashir should he enter the country. T he group called on Zuma to publicly state that South Africa would honour its obligations.
The activists said their aim was to ensure South Africa met its international obligations and abided by international law. Should government fail to do so, the group "will decide how further to engage and respond", which could include court action.