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Masutha presents bill to repeal SA’s ICC membership

Government claims its ICC membership is in conflict with diplomatic immunity laws.

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 has presented a bill to repeal South Africa's membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Government announced its intention to pull out of the ICC last year, after coming under fire for disregarding a court order to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit to the country. Government claims its ICC membership is in conflict with diplomatic immunity laws.

Al-Bashir says the court is a "new colonial tool" targeting only African leaders.

However, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret that South Africa, Burundi and Gambia wanted to leave the International Criminal Court and said it could "send a wrong message on these countries' commitment to justice."

The International Criminal Court, which opened 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.

South Africa and Burundi have officially notified the United Nations of their intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing The Hague-based court, which will take effect in October 2017.

Gambia said this week that it also plans to withdraw from the court, but it has not yet notified the United Nations.

Ban acknowledged the concerns of some countries which have accused the court of being too focused on Africa.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)