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SA still compelled to act against world leaders despite withdrawal from ICC

The DA & several NGOs have approached the courts to have govt's decision to leave the ICC declared unconstitutional.

FILE: 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

PRETORIA – The High Court in Pretoria has heard that even if South Africa were to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) domestic law and the Constitution would still compel government to act against world leaders who have committed international crimes such as genocide.

The Democratic Alliance and several NGOs have approached the court to have government’s decision to withdraw from the ICC declared unconstitutional.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha announced the move last month, saying its international relations obligations are hindered by the Rome Statute.

The decision is in response to the high court ruling last year which found government was obliged to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC when he attended the African Union Summit in Johannesburg.

Advocate for the Helen Suzman Foundation David Unterhalter says withdrawal from the Rome Statute and reliance on South Africa’s Immunities Act won’t provide it with the solution it is seeking.

“One can’t come to the conclusion that properly understood section 41a of the Immunity’s Act actually permits head of state immunity being granted in circumstances where that head of state has committed international crimes, as a function of our domestic law and as a function of our constitution.”

Government will on Tuesday present its opposing arguments.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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