'SA's ICC exit is a sovereign decision'

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says Africans can deal with their own perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: African Union Facebook page.

PRETORIA - African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says the Extraordinary Court that tried and sentenced former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre shows Africans can legally process their own human rights violators.

On Friday, Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced that South Africa is pulling out of the Rome Statute arguing that the move is aimed at strengthening its ability to resolve conflict on the continent.

The decision follows several court rulings, which found that government was obliged to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he attended an African Union summit in Johannesburg last June.

Al-Bashir fled the country in direct contravention of a court order.

Dlamini-Zuma says quitting the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a sovereign decision by South Africa.

She says the AU plays no part in the ICC because it's neither a member nor a signatory of the Rome Statute establishing it in 2002.

She was in Pretoria to engage with South African editors on her blueprint agenda 2063 for the AU.

Reporters persisted in asking her about plans by Burundi and South Africa to quit the ICC.

"You are drawing me into a discussion about moving out of the ICC; I don't want to be drawn into that. It's a sovereign decision of South Africa, or whatever country. It was a sovereign decision to join, it's their sovereign decision to go."

The AU Commission chairperson maintains the extraordinary court set up to try Hissen Habre shows Africans are not weak to deal with their own perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


Meanwhile, the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) says the ordinary citizen will bear the brunt of what it calls government's ill-conceived decision to leave the ICC.

The centre says this decision shows government disregards the safekeeping of human rights.

SALC's Angela Mudukuti said: "If South Africa does successfully leave the Rome Statute of the ICC, they would also have to repeal the Implementation Act which is the domestic legislation governing the investigation and prosecution of genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity. So unfortunately, it is the ordinary citizens who will suffer."