Masutha: Staying with ICC will hamper SA's peacekeeping efforts

Justice Minister Michael Masutha says South Africa remains committed to a system of international justice outside of the ICC.

FILE: Justice Minister Michael Masutha. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

CAPE TOWN – Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha says remaining part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) would hamper South Africa’s peacekeeping efforts on the continent.

In Parliament, Masutha has tabled the notice of withdrawal from the ICC and a bill promoting the repeal of the Domestication Act.

South Africa last month gave notice of its intention to withdraw, more than a year after a court found that government was wrong not to arrest Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in South Africa because he was wanted by the ICC.

Minister Michael Masutha says the country’s decision to withdraw from the ICC will be effective one year after UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon received notification of the intention to do so.

Masutha says South Africa remains committed to a system of international justice, outside of the ICC.

“South Africa has always and will always condemn in the strongest terms human right violations.”

Masutha added that South Africa sought clarity on the ICC’s provisions for immunities of heads of state, prior to last year’s AU Summit in Johannesburg, but said the matter turned into a judicial process.

“The experience with the ICC left South Africa with the sense that its fundamental right to be heard was violated.”

The minister says perceptions of inequality in ICC practices on the African continent remain questionable.

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. The withdrawals will take effect in October 2017.

The ICC, 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.

However, it has been criticised by African countries for having a bias against the continent, with most of its cases involving African leaders.

“For a long time we have witnessed the unevenness of international justice and the lack of universality of application in the manner in which countries are treated,” said parliament’s international relations committee in a statement welcoming South Africa’s plan to withdraw.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)