November 29, 2020

South Africa set to follow Burundi on ICC’s withdrawal

South Africa has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court following a dispute last year over a visit by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the tribunal for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, the decision already adopted by Burundian government.

A copy of the “Instrument of Withdrawal,” dated Wednesday and signed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was obtained on Thursday by the media.

In a notice to the United Nations on Thursday, government says it’s obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, are incompatible with the interpretations given by the International Criminal Court of obligations contained in the Rome Statute” which established the court.

Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as a party to the ICC has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal, contrary to the recent case of Soudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir Visit in South Africa.

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 In June 2015, Bashir went to South Africa to attend an African Union summit but the government didn’t arrest him. A court ordered him to remain in the country while judges deliberated on whether he should be arrested on the ICC warrants, but Bashir left for Sudan before the court ruled that he should indeed be arrested. The Supreme Court of Appeal later described the government’s failure to arrest Bashir as “disgraceful conduct”.

Read also: Burundian president approved the country’s withdrawal from ICC

The government said in a statement in late June 2015 that it would consider withdrawing from the International Criminal Court as a “last resort” following the dispute over Bashir. It cited “contradictions” in the statute and said South Africa would have found it difficult to arrest Bashir because of treaty obligations to the African Union.

The African Union has asked the International Criminal Court to stop proceedings against sitting presidents and has said it will not compel any member states to arrest a leader on behalf of the ICC.

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South Africa’s decision to quit the court follows Tuesday’s announcement that Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation to make his country the first to withdraw from the ICC, which had said it would investigate recent political violence there.

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