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South African court says government's ICC withdrawal is unconstitutional

23 February 2017

Masutha described October's notification to the United Nations of the country's intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, as a policy decision. He said the decision to withdraw from the ICC, which sits in The Hague in The Netherlands, had everything to do with the government's "embarrassment" when it lost two court cases surrounding its actions regarding Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

The court's ruling will force the parliament to open up the decision to the public - a critical part of the debate, said Phephelaphi Dube, director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

Under the Rome Statute, South Africa as an ICC member has an obligation to arrest anyone sought by the tribunal.

Victims' only hope for justice is to be heard in court, he said, and urged the Kenyan government to support the court and embrace an worldwide justice system, according to a Hivisasa report.

The ICC hit out at the South African government for failing to arrest Al-Bashir during the African Union summit in 2015, despite the arrest warrant issued for his arrest by the ICC for crime against humanity.

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

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

Under the rules of the court's treaty, a withdrawal does not take effect until a year after a notice has been submitted to the United Nations. 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.

"We really hope that this judgment does create breathing space for government to reconsider and perhaps to come up with a reasonable approach".

Burundi announced its intention to leave the ICC past year. Shortly before the court ruling on Wednesday, parliament began asking for public submissions on the ICC issue.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party, which filed the suit, said the ruling was a "victory for the rule of law". Though, the government hasn't yet announced whether it will appeal the decision, try to run the withdrawal through parliament, or drop the matter entirely to save face.

"South Africa is now out of step with other progressive and democratic African countries who have reaffirmed their commitment to the ICC", the DA said in a statement.

South African court says government's ICC withdrawal is unconstitutional