DA federal council chairman James Selfe. File picture: ANA/Jonisayi Maromo

Cape Town - Proposed legislation for South Africa to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is not intended to achieve justice for international crimes, but will only assist in the evasion of justice, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

The International Crimes Bill was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday night and sought to repeal the implementation of the Rome Statute Act and withdraw South Africa from the ICC, DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe said.

While it seemed that the bill payed lip service to South Africa’s role as a leader in the African context, and as a champion of dispute resolution, the DA was currently combing through the bill and had made certain observations, he said.

Having previously attempted to withdraw from the ICC, with no alternative for the prosecution of international crimes being presented, the African National Congress was now seeking to confer jurisdiction over these crimes on domestic courts.

Jurisdiction was limited to crimes committed in South Africa, crimes where the accused or a victim was a South African citizen or resident, and crimes where the accused was present in the country after the commission of the crime, Selfe said.

In order for any prosecution contemplated by the bill to even begin, a warrant of arrest had to be applied for by the national prosecutor, or an authorised prosecutor. This already introduced administrative delays that may allow an accused time to flee the state.

"Vesting this discretion in a political appointee, like the National Director of Public Prosecutions, currently Shaun Abrahams who we know to be a lapdog for President [Jacob] Zuma’s cabal of cronies and cadres, is a recipe for disaster," he said.

Administratively, a request for arrest issued by the ICC to member states applied immediately upon receipt, with the effect that subjects may, and ought to be, arrested upon arrival in the country. This bill failed to achieve that, "probably deliberately".

"The ANC has maintained the illusion that the decision not to arrest [Sudan President Omar] al-Bashir, a decision found to be unlawful by the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, was a principled one. They claim that they have ideological differences with the ICC, and that on this basis, they did not feel obliged to arrest al-Bashir.

"However, it is abundantly clear that this is false. In reality, the ANC’s decision was a political one, intended to protect a brutally authoritarian dictator in the interests of reciprocity and impunity," Selfe said.

The impropriety of the bill’s prosecutorial mechanisms was also present with regards to investigations. While the Rome Statute allowed South Africa to outsource international justice, this bill would place the onus to construct and manifest a criminal case squarely within domestic structures. Therefore, it would fall to the Hawks to investigate complaints relating to international crimes, "a duty they are singularly ill-placed to carry out".

The bill seemed to be aware of the shortcomings of a Hawks-driven investigation, as it listed factors to be considered when deciding whether or not to investigate, but it failed to address these shortcomings and in so failing it left open an enormous loophole for prosecutions to be stillborn at the investigative phase.

"While there is a great deal more in the bill to analyse and engage with, which the Democratic Alliance shall be doing in due course, it is clear on a first reading that the bill is not intended to achieve justice for international crimes, but will only assist in the evasion of justice."

"This ‘Impunity Bill’ will not pass through parliament unchallenged, and the ANC will not be permitted to absolve themselves of their duties to victims of genocides and other human rights violations taking place on a daily basis across the continent and the world," Selfe said.

African News Agency/ANA