SA's exit from ICC has ripple effect in Africa

Pretoria announced its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Picture: Peter Dejong

Pretoria announced its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Picture: Peter Dejong

Published Oct 25, 2016


Johannesburg - South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court has spurred on other African countries to follow suit, with Kenya the latest to pull out of the institution.

Pretoria announced its decision to withdraw from the ICC on Friday and was followed by Burundi on Saturday.

Last year there was a dispute about Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visiting South Africa despite his being the subject of an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.

The Kenyan cabinet is finalising a decision to leave the ICC after the country was criticised for prosecuting President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and four other leaders for the 2007 post-election violence. The case crumbled before the ICC last year and the Kenyan leaders were acquitted.

On Saturday, the ICC asked South Africa and Burundi to reconsider.

Meanwhile, South Africa is facing a backlash on the home front.

On Monday, the DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) filed urgent applications in the Constitutional Court to reverse the decision.

Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said the decision was unconstitutional and that only Parliament - and not the cabinet - could take South Africa out of an international treaty that it had ratified.

He said the move would “undermine South Africa’s reputation in the world, its commitment to international law as well as its respect for human rights at home”.

“It’s a blow to the international protection of human rights and turns South Africa into a safe haven for those who the Constitutional Court once described as the enemies of all humankind,” Naidoo said.

The DA’s James Selfe also maintained that the matter was never discussed in Parliament and that it marked a dramatic shift in South Africa’s standing in the international community and commitment to international justice.

However, Justice Minister Michael Masutha was adamant that the country’s international diplomatic system wouldn’t be held to ransom.

He said leaders who come to South Africa remained subject to diplomatic immunity. There should be no different interpretations of the provisions of the Rome Statute on the implementation of diplomatic immunity.

He added that the withdrawal from the ICC would create clarity for South Africa and prevent it from being place in the same sort of quandary it found itself in about the Al-Bashir matter.

Al-Bashir and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda have lobbied other African countries to withdraw from the treaty too.

Masutha said there was no need for the DA to run to the courts. It could raise the matter in Parliament because it was still to be discussed there.

Masutha insisted there was no violation of the constitution because the law allowed the cabinet to sign international agreements.

The cabinet was within its rights in 2002 to enter into the Rome Statute, and it was within its rights now to withdraw from the ICC, he

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