SA still discussing its membership in ICC
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THERE were still ongoing discussions in the government in order to develop proposals on whether South Africa should retain its membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This was revealed by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola when he was responding in writing to parliamentary questions from EFF MP Thembi Msane.
Msane enquired whether the government had any intention to withdraw South Africa from the ICC and if not, what the position was on the matter.
She also asked the date the government will formally sever ties with the ICC.
In his response, Lamola said South Africa took a decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in October 2016.
He said South Africa has since sent a written notice to withdraw from the Rome Statute to the secretary-general of the UN.
Lamola also said the AU took a decision in January 2017, followed by a resolution issued in February 2017 encouraging member nations to withdraw from the ICC.
He said in addition to South Africa, two other AU members, Burundi and Gambia, also indicated their intentions to withdraw from the Rome Statute in 2016.
However, Gambia reversed its decision immediately after a newly elected government assumed power in February 2017 while Burundi has become the first country to withdraw its membership from the ICC.
Lamola also said the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in February 2017, unanimously ruled that the withdrawal notification sent by South Africa to the UN was unconstitutional and invalid without prior parliamentary approval, and ordered the government to rescind the notice with immediate effect.
“In line with the court decision, the South African government revoked its notice of withdrawal from the Rome Statute in March 2017.”
He said the International Crimes Bill, introduced in Parliament in 2017, which is aimed to withdraw South Africa from the ICC, was still with the portfolio committee in Parliament.
The minister explained that numerous developments within the ICC have taken place, including the adoption of the “Understanding with respect to article 97(c) consultations” by the Assembly of State Parties in December 2017.
The understanding, which was adopted as a result of concerns raised by South Africa, provides for a process for states to consult with the ICC in relation to a request for cooperation.
The African Union’s resolve to reform or transform the ICC from within rather than through withdrawals and the failure to provide an African alternative court to the ICC are some of the notable developments, the minister said.
“As a result of these developments, there are ongoing discussions between the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation with a view to develop proposals on South Africa’s membership of the ICC.
“These proposals will be submitted to Cabinet, and once approved, will provide a way forward on the matter,” Lamola said.
He stated that South Africa remained a full member of the ICC with all the rights and obligations that accrue to all members of the Rome Statute.
“The implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 remains in full effect.”