South Africa cuts ties with the International Criminal Court

By Drum Digital
21 October 2016

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, has outlined the reasons behind the decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, has outlined the reasons behind the decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

Masutha believes that South Africa’s obligation to the ICC is not compatible with its commitment to foster peace in Africa.

Referring to the incident of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to SA in 2015, The South African government did not arrest him despite the ICC issuing an arrest warrant for the leader on several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said the South African government was under an obligation to co-operate with the ICC in arresting al-Bashir, and dismissed the State’s appeal against a high court ruling that government’s failure to arrest al-Bashir was inconsistent with its constitutional duties.

“South Africa is expected to arrest people who may enjoy diplomatic immunity under customary international law but who are wanted by the International Criminal Court, even under circumstances where we are actively involved in promoting peace, stability and dialogue in those countries,” he says.

In an interview with the SABC, ICC prosecutor Fatou B. Bensouda said there are several arrest warrants for African leaders, not only Al-Bashir, however, the ICC is having difficulty making the arrests without the cooperation of states.

“We ask state parties whose responsibility it is to arrest Al-Bashir and hand him over to the court. The court was created for it to do its judicial work but it is the states that have the mandate and responsibility to execute the warrants and assist the court to ensure that the process takes place,” she said.

Masutha says South Africa is being hindered by the Rome Statute of the ICC which is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges.

“We wish to give effect to the rule of customary international law which recognises the diplomatic immunity of heads of state and others in order to effectively promote dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts wherever they may occur, particularly on the African continent,” he says.

Masutha says written notice to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has been submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and will come to effect a year after the notification has been given.

Despite this, Masutha says South Africa is still committed to the promotion of human rights.

“We honour our obligations under human rights instruments and we will strengthen our own human rights institutions,” he says. “South Africa will be a beacon in the promotion of human rights all over the world.”

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