The failure last year to arrest Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, in accordance with the law, triggered thoughts of withdrawal, says the writer. File picture: Jacoline Prinsloo

Cape Town - The International Criminal Court (ICC) called on South Africa to reconsider its decision to leave, saying doing so could open the door for other African nations to exit.

In a statement yesterday, Sidiki Kaba, the president of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, said South Africa and Burundi, which is also considering leaving, could still change course. The assembly is the management, oversight and legislative body of the ICC.

“Although withdrawing from a treaty is a sovereign act, I regret these decisions and invite South Africa and Burundi to reconsider their positions,” said Kaba.

If South Africa left, it could open the way for other African states to withdraw from the Rome Statute, said Kaba.

He said this would weaken “the only permanent international criminal court in charge of prosecuting the most serious crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression”.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said on Friday South Africa was quitting the ICC because membership conflicted with diplomatic immunity laws, dealing a new blow to the struggling court and angering opposition parties and human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

South Africa first announced its intention to leave the court last year after the ICC criticised it for disregarding an order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes, when he visited South Africa.

Al-Bashir denied the accusations.

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Weekend Argus