ICC de­ci­sion courts world’s dis­favour

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

IT FEELS like no co­in­ci­dence that South Afri- ca an­nounced that it is to with­draw from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) just as the Omar al-Bashir case was to come be­fore the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. The case arose from the June 2015 court or­der to ar­rest Su­danese Pres­i­dent Bashir, who was at- tend­ing an AU Sum­mit in Sand­ton. Bashir was, and still is, sub­ject to ar­rest war- rants is­sued by the ICC in con­nec­tion with al­leg- ations of geno­cide, war crimes and crimes against hu­man­ity, com­mit­ted in Dar­fur, Su­dan. In March the Supreme Court of Ap­peal (SCA) held Bashir did not en­joy in­cum­bent head of state im­mu­nity and should have been ar­rested. This con­flict be­tween in­ter­na­tional law and the gov­ern­ment’s for­eign pol­icy in­ter­ests is doubt­less in­con­ve­nient for our rulers. There’s a dis­com­fit­ing irony in that, by with- draw­ing from the ICC, South Africa joins Western “rogue na­tions” like the US and Is­rael, which have signed the Rome Statute, but not rat­i­fied it. We did. Yet South Africa’s de­ci­sion to with­draw was not pre-ap­proved by Par­lia­ment, which was in­formed yes­ter­day af­ter the fact of the de­ci­sion by Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha. Few are com­fort­able with the per­cep­tion that the ICC has been pre­oc­cu­pied with pur­su­ing pros­ecu- tions in Africa. How­ever, the AU’s African Court on Jus­tice and Hu­man Rights, while hav­ing ju­ris- dic­tion over crim­i­nal mat­ters, will not be al­lowed to pros­e­cute heads of state, no mat­ter how many gross vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights a despot may stand ac­cused of per­pe­trat­ing. South Africa’s own law gov­erns the coun­try’s obli­ga­tions in terms of the ICC. The SCA pointed out that this was wholly con­sis­tent with demo­crat- ic South Africa’s com­mit­ment to hu­man rights. It is a sad day if our gov­ern­ment can change its mind about this, with­out even con­sult­ing us via our demo­crat­i­cally elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

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