South Africa divided over ICC withdrawal


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South Africans are divided over the country’s decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Last month, South Africa wrote to the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, advising him of the country’s intention to withdraw from the ICC.

The withdrawal will take effect one year after the secretary general receives notification.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the implementation of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court Act 2002 is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act 2001.

As a signatory to the Rome Statute, under which the ICC was established, South Africa is compelled by the ICC to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the ICC for alleged anti-humanity crimes.

South Africa refused to arrest al-Bashir when he was attending the 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg in June 2015.



South Africa has argued that the continental body, the African Union, insisted that a sitting president cannot be arrested. Masutha said there is a conflict between its obligations to the African Union and the ICC.

Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch told Xinhua that South Africa should have remained in the ICC.

He said, “There is no justification for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC because such an action is contrary to the country’s constitutional values.”

“Instead of calling for immunity to sitting leaders and withdrawal from the ICC, South Africa should have pursued dialogue and reform within the ICC without abandoning the idea of global justice,” he added.

Professor Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, director of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute, told Xinhua that the ICC was biased towards the West and that prompted South Africa to withdraw from it.

Ndlovu-Gatsheni who is also a lecturer at University of South Africa’s Development Studies said, “The ICC is viewed as a Western institution to discipline African leaders. Only African leaders have been taken there and this created problems for Africans especially those clamoring for the African renaissance.”




Last month, following Masutha’s confirmation of the cabinet’s decision to withdraw from the ICC, the the opposition Democratic Alliance and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) filed an urgent application for direct access to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of the decision.

The Constitutional Court then dismissed the application.

The court concluded that the application based on exclusive jurisdiction should be dismissed, as the matter does not invoke the jurisdiction of this court.

Further, the application for direct access to challenge the constitutionality of a state decision to withdraw from the ICC has been dismissed on the ground that it is not in the best interest of justice for the court to hear the matter at this stage, the court ruled.

South Africa is not the only African country that seek to quit the ICC.

Other countries that have mulled withdrawing from the ICC are Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Sudan and Uganda.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has even threatened to mobilize African leaders to pull out of the ICC which he accused of targeting leaders on the continent.


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