Published: Thu, February 23, 2017
Health Care | By Kelly Miles

S/African court invalidates ICC withdrawal

S/African court invalidates ICC withdrawal

But two of the three withdrawals have now been halted. The ICC had a warrant for Bashir's arrest.

In October last year, South Africa abruptly announced its intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, triggering a one-year notice period.

Masutha described October's notification to the United Nations of its intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the Hague-based court, as a policy decision.

Wednesday's decision in Pretoria high court was largely expected as Mojapelo had already told government lawyers during a previous hearing that he was concerned that officials had exceeded their constitutional powers. Because the decision was made so quickly, and without approval from Parliament, that notice of withdrawal is unconstitutional, and must be revoked.

Pretoria said past year it planned to leave the ICC after receiving criticism for ignoring the court's order to arrest the visiting Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes, in June 2015.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, center-right, hugs Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, center-left, who is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity.

The high court has ordered government to revoke the notice of withdrawal.

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Masutha said the ruling amounted to a delay that would not stop the government's bid to leave an institution that some African governments feel unfairly targets Africans and which Pretoria said was at odds with its diplomatic immunity laws.

The ICC has had to fight off allegations of pursuing a neo-colonial agenda in Africa, where most of its investigations have been based.

The government previously said a withdrawal bill would go to parliament, where the ruling African National Congress party has a majority and likely would approve it.

Government argued it was Cabinet's decision to approve the notice of withdrawal from the Rome Statute, insisting South Africa's obligation under the Rome Statute had impeded peacekeeping and peace negotiations. But the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since 1994 after the end of the Apartheid era, has shown signs of cracking under Zuma's scandal-plagued leadership. But the ANC will elect a new leader in December, which could lead to changes in government policies.

However, the Democratic Alliance argued the government's intention to leave the ICC directly contradicted South Africa's commitment and legal obligations to worldwide justice and human rights. Shortly before the court ruling on Wednesday, parliament began asking for public submissions on the ICC issue.

The Democratic Alliance, the opposition party which filed the case, called the outcome a "victory for the rule of law". It criticized the government for trying to "steamroll" over the constitution.

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