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High Court rules govt's decision to withdraw from ICC unconstitutional & invalid

Government gave notice to withdraw from the ICC, claiming obligations to the court undermined international relations obligations.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria. Picture: Mia Lindeque/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – The High Court in Pretoria has ruled that the executive does not have and has never had the power to terminate existing international agreements.

The court ruled this morning that government’s decision to give notice to withdraw from the International Criminal Court was unconstitutional and invalid.

It has further ordered government to revoke the notice.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) lodged the application on the basis that parliament was not consulted prior to the notice being issued.

Judge Phineas Mojapela referred to South Africa’s Constitutional scheme, which confers the power to draft legislation on parliament.

He says the executive’s decision to terminate membership of the international criminal court would result in the termination of existing rights and obligations.

Mojapela says this amounts to a breach of the separation of powers because the executive would have exercised legislative powers.

The court also found that the unexplained haste with which the notice was lodged in itself constitutes procedural irrationality.

The judge has ordered President Jacob Zuma and other members of his cabinet to revoke the notice of withdrawal.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)