Saturday Star

Move to leave the ICC ‘saddening’


AS THE country today marks 21 years since the constituti­on came into effect, retired Judge Richard Goldstone has criticised and lamented the stance taken by the government to leave the Internatio­nal Criminal Court (ICC).

“It saddens me a great deal that this could come to pass,” Judge Goldstone said yesterday at a dialo gue session hosted by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre at Constituti­onal Hill.

He told members, who included law experts and prominent human rights lawyer George Bizos, that it had to be establishe­d why South Africa wanted to turn its back on a journey it had embarked on in 2002 when it set an example and implemente­d the Rome Statute of the Internatio­nal Criminal Court Act.

“The questions we have to ask ourselves is what has changed since 2002?” he said.

Judge Goldstone said the number of African states that are members of the ICC had risen to 34 since 2002, and while years later, some of the leaders of these countries used the ICC to advance their own political agendas, support for the intentiona­l justice system was imperative.

“The security councils remain mute and do nothing to implement its resolution­s. These are weaknesses of the Rome Statutes. The answer (for South Africa) isn’t to withdraw. The answer is how to make it better.”

In October, Minister of Inter national Relations and Co- operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane signed the Instrument of Withdrawal. This followed decision made by the cabinet. Among its reasons for leaving is how the government has faced criticism for ignoring a court order to arrest embattled Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir – wanted for genocide and war crimes – when he entered the country in June.

Former UN Commission­er for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the new buzzwords going around globally are “fake propaganda”.

“There has been fake propaganda in this country for many years. The fake propaganda now going around is that the ICC is targeting African leaders,” Pillay said.

Pillay said the trend by African leaders to criticise the ICC stemmed from the fact that many didn’t want to face prosecutio­ns for their actions. “The voices of the victims are clear. They want justice,” she said.

Pillay also told guests that the public needed to guard against similar laws passed in Russia, which sought to silence NGOs and prevent them from obtaining funding from foreign donors.

“It’s coming here (South Africa). A bill already tabled to silence civil society and go against the spirit of the constituti­on,” she said.

The dialogue also highlighte­d strides made by the ICC in successful­ly prosecutin­g for mer Democratic Republic of Congo vice-president JeanPierre Bemba, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the rapes of numerous women, committed by his troops in the early 2000s.

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