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AS IT HAPPENED: A difficult choice had to be made, Masutha says on ICC withdrawal

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(Tshidi Madia, News24)
(Tshidi Madia, News24)
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21 Oct 2016

Masutha: After a drawn out effort to get this matter resolved, we have not been successful. We need to put this matter to rest, and move on as a country, promoting peace and prosperity in Africa, can't do this as long as we have this legal impediment. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Can't speculate on what would happen if Omar al-Bashir returns to SA. Obligations that apply when SA is a member of Rome Statue continues to apply for 12 months after notification has been tabled. Would have to be looked at by those dealing with it at that time.

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Constitution is clear, this decision is prerogative of the executive, and executive has exercised this prerogative, so don't foresee any legal difficulties arising from this. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: SA is a participant and continues to honour its commitments to human rights instruments. Africa is in process of strengthening its own human rights instruments, our commitment is to continue to work closely with like-minded countries at AU level to ensure that SA continues to be beacon of light in the promotion of human rights here and in the rest of the world. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Our focus is to ensure that international law obligations are properly aligned with our domestic law, without the uncertainties and contradictions that exist. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: It is the prerogative of executive to enter into, and also withdraw, from international agreements. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Most of the facts are public knowledge. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha answering questions now.

We have informed Speaker, chair of NCOP of executive decision. Want to make a ministerial statement to National Assembly, to elucidate the background leading to this decision. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: SA remains committed to fighting for human rights, will continue to actively promote dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts in SA and elsewhere. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Application for leave to appeal SCA hearing set down for November 22 will now be withdrawn. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: Written notice submitted to secretary general of UN. Withdrawal to take effect one year after SG receives notification.

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: In Bashir matter: SCA confirmed that heads of state enjoy diplomatic immunity against arrest. But because of signing statute SA waived such immunity and was thus obliged to arrest people wanted for crimes against humanity

SCA identified the problem which needs to be addressed. 

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: A bill will soon be table in Parliament

21 Oct 2016

Masutha: SA hindered by Rome statute of ICC Act. This Act and Rome statute compels SA to arrest people who may enjoy diplomatic immunity but who are wanted by the ICC. 

21 Oct 2016

Briefing starts. 

Masutha says Cabinet took a decision on 19 October.

21 Oct 2016

Briefing was scheduled to start at 10:00 but it appears to be starting at 10:30 instead.

21 Oct 2016

SA starts process to withdraw from International Criminal Court

New York - South Africa has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court following a dispute last year over a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the tribunal for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

A copy of the "Instrument of Withdrawal," dated Wednesday and signed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was obtained on Thursday by The Associated Press.

It states that South Africa "has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court of obligations contained in the Rome Statute" which established the court.

Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as a party to the ICC has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.

The charges against Bashir stem from the bloodshed in Sudan's western Darfur region which began in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The United Nations says 300 000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes.

In June 2015, Bashir went to South Africa to attend an African Union summit but the government didn't arrest him. A court ordered him to remain in the country while judges deliberated on whether he should be arrested on the ICC warrants, but Bashir left for Sudan before the court ruled that he should indeed be arrested. The Supreme Court of Appeal later described the government's failure to arrest Bashir as "disgraceful conduct".

The government said in a statement in late June 2015 that it would consider withdrawing from the International Criminal Court as a "last resort" following the dispute over Bashir. It cited "contradictions" in the statute and said South Africa would have found it difficult to arrest Bashir because of treaty obligations to the African Union.

The African Union has asked the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against sitting presidents and has said it will not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the ICC.

South Africa's decision to quit the court follows Tuesday's announcement that Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation to make his country the first to withdraw from the ICC, which had said it would investigate recent political violence there.No country has ever withdrawn from the ICC, which was established to prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Burundi's decision to withdraw follows a bitter dispute with the international community over the human rights situation in the East African country. More than a year of deadly violence has followed Nkurunziza's controversial decision to pursue a third term, which some have called unconstitutional.According to South Africa's document, its withdrawal will take effect one year after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is officially notified.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said he was "not confirming at this point" whether Ban had received a withdrawal document from South Africa.

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