South Africa has officially made public its intention to revoke its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC)
SA government mentioned this on Tuesday to the United Nations saying it has decided to officially withdraw its intention to leave the ICC after the Gauteng High Court ruled in February that the initial process to withdraw from the ICC was unconstitutional and invalid.
The SA government had last year submitted a bill to exit the ICC, amid growing concerns the that Hague-based court tries only African leaders.
Government said it would leave the international court because its obligations are inconsistent with laws giving sitting leaders diplomatic immunity, according to government officials.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) was earlier in support of the country’s withdrawal believing it was the right thing to do. But to the party’s main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, the move was unconditional and a way for the executive to side-step the public.
It was the DA who took the government to court in December last year, and by February this year, the high court ruled against the move saying it was unconstitutional and asked government to withdraw its notice served to the United Nations Secretary-General.
“Government had to involve the public in such a fundamental matter involving human rights,” said the DA’s party legal representative, Steven Budlender.
He added that the ANC-led government had failed to involve the people of South Africa, taking it upon itself to exclude the public in the decision-making process. Budlender told the court that Parliament, not the executive, has the authority to make these kinds of decisions.
“There has never been any suggestion by Parliament that it is the executive that can unbind South Africa from its treaties,” Budlender said, adding that SA’s decision would have a negative impact on our reputation abroad as well as the ICC itself.
SA had to officially notify the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about court’s ruling, according to a document posted on the UN treaties website.
Guterres referred to the ruling, saying “the approval of the Parliament of South Africa had to be obtained before the Instrument of Withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court can be deposited with the United Nations”.
The ICC which was launched in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Three African states — SA, Gambia and Burundi — last year signaled their intention to quit the ICC. However, Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, elected in December, said earlier in March that his country would remain in the ICC.