ICC withdrawal decision is now in your hands
‘Procedural irrationality.” “Prematurity.” “Unexplained haste.”
Those were the terms the high court used to describe government’s bungled decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ordering government to immediately revoke its notice to withdraw from the court, the full Bench headed by Judge Phineas Mojapelo said the process should have been initiated by Parliament and not the executive.
The court ruling followed International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s letter to the UN signalling South Africa’s intention to withdraw from the Rome Statute by October this year. The Rome Statute is the instrument under which the ICC was set up.
In her letter, Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa’s membership of the ICC conflicted with the country’s involvement in conflict resolution. The decision was precipitated by government’s handling of Sudanese mass butcher Omar al Bashir’s visit to South Africa and the court’s castigation of government for violating its legal duties.
This week, Mojapelo was scathing of government’s failure to consult Parliament, “the principal legislative organ of the state”, and of the belated attempt to rush the Repeal Bill through.
“Parliament is ... the master of its own processes, and the national executive is not entitled to dictate time frames to it within which to consider any bill before it ... Parliament has a special role to play in our constitutional democracy.”
The courts have now put the matter back in the hands of the citizens and their representatives. It is therefore critical that citizens engage in the public consultation process. In the words of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, which was an intervening party in the case, we all need to ensure that our commitments to fundamental human rights – in particular acting against genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including apartheid – are respected and indeed prioritised.”