ICC decision courts world’s disfavour
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.