On Wednesday, South Africa’s High Court prevented the government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In October, South Africa announced that it would be leaving the Hague-based court. South Africa’s fallout with the ICC came when the government refused to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who was wanted by the ICC for committing war crimes.
The ICC is an international court formed in 2002 to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
Phineas Mojapelo, the High Court judge dismissed the withdrawal notice citing that having not passed through the parliament, the withdrawal notice was “unconstitutional and invalid”.
“This is a victory for the rule of law and indeed for our country’s human rights-based foreign policy which Zuma and his cronies have tried so hard to depart from,” DA spokesman James Selfe said.
“Clearly Zuma and his ANC have absolutely no respect for the constitution.”
The Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha said regardless of the High Court’s decision, South Africa will still push on with withdrawing for the ICC.
Masutha noted that the court’s ruling was based on the failure of the government to go through the right procedure, that is, the decision did not go through the parliament.He insisted that the court ruling was only a delay.
Two other African countries including Burundi and Gambia had signaled their decision to leave the international court. Gambia’sdecision to leave the court was done under the leadership of former President Yahya Jammeh. As a result, when President Adama Barrow, came into power he announced that the west African nation will not be leaving the ICC.
Other countries like Uganda have also criticized the court. The reason African governments seem to be against the ICC is claims of bias. They claim that the court only seems to prosecute Africans while ignoring western perpetrators of crime against humanity or war crimes. They also argue that these big nations are not a party to the Rome Statute, the bedrock of the ICC.
During the African Union Summit which was concluded in January, the AU heads of states discussed on the ICC and Africa. Many were worried that the international body seemed to target only Africans. In 2016, 9 out of the 10 cases handled by the ICC were on Africans. These prompted the Union to contemplate a mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.
Former UN Secretary General who played a key role in the formation of the ICC urged African governments to not withdraw from the ICC. According to him, this would give room to more crimes against humanity being carried out.
He added that 8 out of the 9 cases which prosecuted Africans were requested by the people of the particular African government.