South African court cancels withdrawal from ICC

South Africa began the process of withdrawing from the ICC past year, following the furore over Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

South Africa's North Gauteng High Court today ruled that the government's attempt to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was unconstitutional and invalid, as the government issued its withdrawal notice without consulting parliament.

South Africa's government still plans to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Wednesday, after a court ruled that it was unconstitutional to do so.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance took the government to court, arguing that Masutha acted unlawfully by announcing the withdrawal without seeking parliamentary approval.

Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as an ICC member has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.

Wednesday's decision in Pretoria high court was largely expected as Mojapelo had already told government lawyers during a previous hearing that he was concerned that officials had exceeded their constitutional powers.

Last month, African leaders adopted a strategy calling for a collective withdrawal from the court.




The president and ministers, the judge added, "are ordered forthwith to revoke the notice of withdrawal". "We will then decide whether to appeal the judgement or not", says Mhaga. Because the decision was made so quickly, and without approval from Parliament, that notice of withdrawal is unconstitutional, and must be revoked.

Is the ICC biased towards Africa?

. He said the decision to withdraw from the ICC, which sits in The Hague in The Netherlands, had everything to do with the government's "embarrassment" when it lost two court cases surrounding its actions regarding Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

In 2016, Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia, expressed their intentions to withdraw from the court.

The ruling will be seen by many as a victory for human rights in Africa, at a time when they appear under threat.

Three African states - South Africa, Gambia and Burundi - a year ago signaled their intention to quit the ICC. "In other words, South Africa's global law obligations are not dependent on the Rome Statute and vice versa", Mojapelo said.

The issue may also be a factor in the run-up to and aftermath of the ruling African National Congress's internal leadership vote in December this year.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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