SA govt may ditch ICC over al-Bashir debacle

ANC MPs say South Africa joined the International Criminal Court voluntarily & could leave if it saw fit.

FILE: President Omar al Bashir. Picture: Jean-Jacques Cornish/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The African National Congress (ANC) has given a strong indication that South Africa may ditch the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It came up during a heated special debate on Tuesday on government's failure to detain Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, in violation of its international obligations and in defiance of a High Court order.

Al-Bashir is wanted in connection with war crimes and genocide in the Darfur conflict that saw 300,000 people killed and more than 2 million displaced.

Most opposition parties were withering in their criticism of government, but ANC Members of Parliament (MPs) defended its stance, citing the risk to the Sudanese peace process and to South Africa's relations with countries on the continent and bias against African leaders on the part of the ICC.

Congress of the People (Cope) Leader Mosiuoa Lekota blasted government.

"You lied to us, you said you'd uphold the Constitution, uphold the law and be an example. You have misled the people of our country and now we are ashamed before the nations of this world."

But ANC MPs defended government's stance, with Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Obed Bapela hinting that South Africa would review its commitment to the ICC.

"As the ANC we want to make the following pronouncement that we call on the reform of the ICC; we went in voluntarily, the option of going out voluntarily still is open."

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)'s Floyd Shivambu criticised government for ignoring an order by one of its own courts, but also slammed the ICC for selective prosecution of African leaders.

Government must submit an affidavit to the High Court in Johannesburg by Thursday, explaining how al-Bashir came to leave the country.