Justice Minister Michael Masutha confirmed that Pretoria has formally applied to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) because its obligations are inconsistent with laws giving sitting leaders diplomatic immunity.
This follows last year’s debacle when Sudan’s President – and ICC fugitive – Omar al-Bashir was threatened with arrest when he attended an African Union (AU) Summit in Johannesburg. He was permitted to leave South Africa despite an urgent court order preventing his departure. The incident embarrassed the South African government which served notice that it would consider leaving the global court.
The AU subsequently asked ICC 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. The ICC, which 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.
Masutha in a media conference said “the implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act, 2002, is in conflict and inconsistent with the provisions of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001”. According to South Africa’s document, its withdrawal will take effect one year after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is officially notified.
South Africa’s dramatic announcement follows another confirmation by Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza that he had signed legislation to make his country the first to withdraw from the ICC which planned to investigate the political turmoil there.