Decision to withdraw from ICC still stands, says ANC

Johannesburg – The ANC’s decision that South Africa should withdraw from the International Criminal Court still stands, but consultations are still ongoing, the party's subcommittee on international relations says.

The committee's head Edna Molewa on Sunday at Luthuli House briefed journalists about the party’s discussion document on international relations, ahead of the party’s policy conference at the end of the month where it makes policy decisions.

Government began withdrawal procedures soon after the party decided that it should, at its 2015 national general council.

The court has, however, since ruled that the proper procedure in Parliament wasn’t followed.

“At this point there has not been any review of that mandate in that regard as a subcommittee, we are going on and understand that mandate to be saying as we withdraw from the ICC, we need to consult at [African Union] level, which I think has been happening throughout the time as the decision has been made,” she said.

She also said there should be a discussion at the ICC about changing the statutes – possibly with reference to clarifying the issue of “diplomatic immunity” when a head of state wanted by the ICC visits an ICC member country.

There was controversy when South Africa failed to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir when he attended the AU summit in Johannesburg in 2015, as he is wanted by the ICC on several charges, including crimes against humanity.

South Africa has since argued at a hearing at the ICC in April that the statute does allow for exceptions to the obligations of member states to arrest those wanted by the court.

Molewa said South Africa has discussed this issue with countries in the European Union as well as Britain.

“So the discussion is about that part,” she said.

“We also had to deal with the issue of strengthening the African courts so that work is ongoing now.

“Remember the ANC and South Africa has (sic) never said that we could be heard or seen to be allowing any form of impunity, that’s why our mandate is clearly to ensure that we strengthen the African instruments, so that those who are found not to be on the side of the law, heads of states or whatever, could be taken through that process.”

Molewa said ordinary citizens should see the courts in their countries as the court of first instance, before they went to courts like the ICC.

Work in the AU on the African court is ongoing, but very few countries have so far acceded to it.

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