As South Africa begins plans to finally leave the ICC- International Criminal Court, other African leaders have unanimously agreed to follow suite.
At the African Union summit (AU) in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, the leaders adopted the strategy of calling for a collective withdrawal from the International Criminal Court by pointing out their dissatisfaction in the court.
Their unanimous decision follows the decision by South Africa and Burundi to pull out while accusing the ICC of undermining their sovereignty and unfairly targeting Africans.
As a founding member of the court with a rich legacy of supporting international criminal justice measures under the leadership Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s decision to leave the ICC was a first in the history of the court.
South Africa explained that its decision to quit the Rome Statute was due to the apparent conflict with its obligations to the African Union to grant immunity to serving heads of states.
Other African countries joined in the mass pull out claiming that the ICC persecutes Africans while ignoring crimes committed by those in the West.
This issue all started when South Africa failed to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir so as to hand him over to the Hague for a trial on three charges. This singular action by SA resulted in international condemnation and a domestic judicial verdict that the SA government violated its international and domestic legal obligations in not arresting the ICC fugitive.
Correspondents gathered that alongside their decision to leave, African leaders also resolved to hold talks with the UN Security Council to push for the ICC to be reformed.
Majority of countries planning to leave the ICC also want the meaning of immunity and impunity amended in the Rome Statute, the treaty that set up the court in 2002. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, BBC reported.
Meanwhile, South Africa has began moves to finally leave ICC as the parliament began process to implement the Rome Statute. The bill was introduced to the justice committee on Tuesday, with Justice Minister Michael Masutha appealing for Parliament to “assert its rights”.
“As far as our understanding goes, the critical stage at which we are now is in your hands squarely. And that critical stage is where you have to exercise your parliamentary authority,” Masutha said before the committee as it set to call for public comments on the bill, before it is processed in Parliament.
Masutha requested that MPs legitimize an executive decision made by the government to withdraw its membership from the ICC because he could not see how a court could dictate to either the executive or Parliament choices imposed by those who “had the privilege to approach court just because they could”.
“I think this Parliament, and this government, must assert its constitutional powers and rights for the good of the people of this country.”
Masutha’s words gained the support of majority of the MPs in the Justice committee with ACDP MP Steve Swart raising concerns that SA had been part of the delegation that had put together the implementation of the Rome Statute.
The executive has exercised its prerogative after extensive engagement and decided that South Africa will no longer be a member of the ICC. South Africa’s exit could open the door for other countries to leave ICC, he said, and it would collapse, he said