South African High Court Rejects ICC Withdrawal

It said the country should not join "pariah states who have no respect for human rights".

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which brought the court application, said the ruling was a reminder of South Africa's departure under Zuma from the global idealism that typified its foreign policy under Nelson Mandela.

In its withdrawal notice, South Africa complained that its legal obligations to the worldwide court were sometimes "incompatible" with the "peaceful resolution of conflicts". Even if a new notice of withdrawal is lodged with the ICC by then, the one-year notice period will extend into the new leader's tenure, giving them the opportunity to re-examine the issue.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance took the government to court, arguing that Justice Minister Michael Masutha acted unlawfully by announcing the withdrawal without seeking parliamentary approval.

"Government will reflect on the reasons for the judgment and decide whether to appeal or not".

He notes that it was especially surprising because South Africa was a founding member of the court, which prosecutes war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South Africa confirmed this in October 2016 that it was leaving the ICC on the grounds of membership conflicted with diplomatic immunity laws.

South Africa announced its intention to leave the court after the government "refused to detain indicted war criminal Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir at an African Union summit in 2015, despite an ICC warrant for his arrest", NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton explained.

Canada was a key leader in helping create the ICC in the late 1990s, and former foreign minister Stéphane Dion campaigned to save the ICC in a tour of African countries a year ago. "In other words, South Africa's worldwide law obligations are not dependent on the Rome Statute and vice versa", Mojapelo said.

"It's expected that the executive go back to parliament".

The president and ministers, the judge added, "are ordered forthwith to revoke the notice of withdrawal".

Their decision is based on their conclusion that the court seems to target only African countries.

Now nine out of the ICC's 10 investigations concern African countries, the other being Georgia.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said he regretted South Africa's decision to withdraw from the ICC and expressed hope that the government would reconsider it.

  • Aubrey Nash