SUS­PEND MEM­BER­SHIP

Gov­ern­ing party will urge Cab­i­net to tem­po­rar­ily pull out of the ICC as it feels the in­sti­tu­tion is no longer meet­ing ob­jec­tives for which it was cre­ated

CityPress - - Front Page - ANDISIWE MAK­I­NANA andisiwe.mak­i­nana@city­press.co.za

Af­ter a week of crit­i­cis­ing the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC), City Press un­der­stands that the ANC took a de­ci­sion at a spe­cial na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) meet­ing to ask the gov­ern­ment to sus­pend its mem­ber­ship of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. The gov­ern­ment has been roundly crit­i­cised for invit­ing Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir to at­tend an African Union sum­mit in Johannesburg and there­after ig­nor­ing a court or­der that com­pelled it to ar­rest him. The de­ci­sion does not mark a com­plete with­drawal from the ICC. In a state­ment fol­low­ing the NEC meet­ing, the party said: “It is our view, how­ever, that the ICC has grad­u­ally di­verted from its man­date and al­lowed it­self to be in­flu­enced by pow­er­ful non­mem­ber states.”

The party, how­ever, did not spare al-Bashir, say­ing: “The mat­ter re­lat­ing to Pres­i­dent al-Bashir, there­fore, is of ma­jor con­cern...”

The ANC has de­cided to call for South Africa to sus­pend its mem­ber­ship of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) un­til con­cerns about the in­sti­tu­tion’s per­ceived bias and un­fair­ness are ad­dressed.

The ANC took a res­o­lu­tion at a spe­cial na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing in Pre­to­ria on Fri­day evening af­ter what in­sid­ers say was a “heated and emo­tional” dis­cus­sion.

Na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) sources told City Press South Africa would not com­pletely with­draw from the ICC but was “walk­ing away for the time be­ing” un­til con­cerns had been sorted out.

The party will com­mu­ni­cate its de­ci­sion to gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment it, but this will be a mere for­mal­ity, as key play­ers such as Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane are all NEC mem­bers. Cab­i­net will then make the for­mal de­ci­sion.

But in its post-NEC state­ment yesterday, the ANC stopped short of an­nounc­ing the sus­pen­sion, in­stead call­ing on gov­ern­ment “to work to­gether with the rest of the con­ti­nent to pro­tect the ICC from un­due in­flu­ence and re­store its cred­i­bil­ity within the con­ti­nent”.

An ANC leader said this was be­cause the party did not pub­licly want to be seen to be dic­tat­ing to gov­ern­ment on dayto-day de­ci­sions.

Although the mat­ter was not of­fi­cially up for dis­cus­sion at the meet­ing – which was deal­ing with prepa­ra­tions for a tri­par­tite al­liance sum­mit where the cri­sis in labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu would be dealt with – the near ar­rest of Su­danese pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir dur­ing the African Union (AU) sum­mit in Johannesburg pushed the ICC mat­ter on to the agenda.

An ANC leader said Pres­i­dent Zuma touched on the al-Bashir is­sue when he made his open­ing in­put.

“He spoke about al-Bashir and the AU mat­ter be­cause it is a re­cent is­sue and peo­ple are re­ally emo­tional about it. It was a heated de­bate, with the ma­jor­ity view be­ing that South Africa should with­draw [from the ICC],” said the leader.

But in the end, it was de­cided not to “fully with­draw” but to “take all these is­sues that the ANC has raised and go there to ne­go­ti­ate”.

The South­ern Africa Lit­i­ga­tion Cen­tre ap­plied to the North Gaut­eng High Court last Sun­day that South Africa ar­rest al-Bashir for al­leged war crimes, crimes against hu­man­ity and geno­cide in Dar­fur.

On Mon­day, a full Bench headed by Judge Pres­i­dent Dun­stan Mlambo or­dered al-Bashir’s ar­rest. But by the time the court made the rul­ing, gov­ern­ment had al­ready sneaked him out of the coun­try. This was de­spite an ear­lier court or­der that he not be al­lowed to leave the coun­try pend­ing de­lib­er­a­tions on whether South Africa was obliged – as an ICC mem­ber state – to ar­rest him and hand him over for trial.

The ANC yesterday re­it­er­ated its stance that the ICC’s work was be­ing “in­flu­enced” by Western pow­ers, who them­selves were not part of the court sys­tem.

“We per­ceive it as tend­ing to act as a proxy in­stru­ment for these states, who see no need to sub­ject them­selves to its dis­ci­pline, to per­se­cute African lead­ers and ef­fect regime change on the con­ti­nent. It is be­ing used as a court against Africa,” the ANC said. It also called on the African Union to strengthen in­sti­tu­tions such as the African Court on Hu­man and Peo­ple’s Rights so as to “pro­tect the peo­ple of Africa against crimes against hu­man­ity, war crimes and crimes of ag­gres­sion”. It is un­der­stood the ANC will now also co­or­di­nate ICC lob­by­ing with other for­mer lib­er­a­tion move­ments on the con­ti­nent.

A to­tal with­drawal from the ICC would be a cum­ber­some process in­volv­ing Par­lia­ment and a mo­ti­va­tion to the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral. This week, the chair­per­son of the ANC’s sub­com­mit­tee on in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, Obed Bapela, told City Press gov­ern­ment was taken by sur­prise by the al-Bashir court chal­lenge. He said gov­ern­ment had ex­pected those who ob­jected to al-Bashir’s pres­ence in South Africa to lodge their ob­jec­tion af­ter full diplo­matic im­mu­nity for all AU del­e­gates was gazetted. “We didn’t an­tic­i­pate a prob­lem in South Africa be­cause pub­lish­ing it [the gazette] was to say to the so­ci­ety: be aware that this gath­er­ing is go­ing to be pro­tected by this im­mu­nity. Even if you are hav­ing an ob­jec­tion, say so; say you ob­ject to cer­tain peo­ple be­ing in­vited or you could even de­mand [to know] who have we in­vited; we would have given that in­for­ma­tion and then you could have ob­jected to cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als,” he said.

He said gov­ern­ment would have dis­agreed with those who ob­jected, and then they would have taken the mat­ter to court.

If gov­ern­ment had lost the court case, it would have then been in a po­si­tion to ad­vise the af­fected in­di­vid­u­als about the risks of com­ing. “But no one ob­jected; it went qui­etly. No ob­jec­tion, there­fore all sys­tems went,” he said. Bapela said that by not ar­rest­ing al-Bashir the gov­ern­ment chose Africa over the ICC.

“Our rep­u­ta­tion in Africa is re­stored; our dig­nity in the con­ti­nent is re­stored; our be­ing part of the con­ti­nent is af­firmed.”

Bapela said the ANC and South Africa were not pro­mot­ing im­punity and were not say­ing that al– Bashir did not kill peo­ple and they in fact would still want to see in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his sus­pected role in mass crimes go­ing ahead.

Obed Bapela

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