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‘Rome Statute hinders SA’s international relations’

Michael Masutha says the statute's obligations hinder the SA government’s commitment to peaceful negotiations.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha addresses the media at the GCIS head office in Pretoria on 21 October 2016 to confirm South Africa's decision to withdraw from the International Crimanal Court. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Justice Minister Michael Masutha says the Rome Statute hinders South Africa's international relations because it compels the country to disregard its own Diplomatic Immunities Act.

The minister has been discussing government's decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a move that's made headlines abroad.

The United Nations was notified of the decision yesterday.

The High Court in Pretoria ordered government to arrest Sudanese president Omar al Bashir when he was in South Africa last June, but he slipped out of the country in contravention of the court order.

Masutha says, "The Rome Statute compels South Africa to arrest persons who may enjoy diplomatic immunity under customary international law."

He says this obligation hinders government's commitment to peaceful negotiations.

"South Africa has to do so even under circumstances where we are actively involved in promoting peace, stability and dialogue in those specific countries."

Parliament has been notified of the executive's decision.

DA READY TO GOT TO COURT OVER ICC DECISION

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has announced it will approach the courts to challenge government's decision to withdraw from the ICC.

The DA's James Selfe says the party is prepared to challenge the minister's decision in court.

"The decision was irrational, unprocedural and unconstitutional (sic). We believe that it is certainly not in the best interests of South Africa."

He adds because the terms of the treaty were ratified by the national legislature, a decision to exit the ICC needs to be approved by Parliament.

Human Rights Watch researcher Dewa Mavhinga says the move is a "disregard for justice".

"The decision severely undermines South Africa's credibility and standing regionally and globally."

South Africa delivered a formal notice of withdrawal to the United Nations yesterday, setting in motion the year-long process to complete withdrawal.

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