South Africa starts process to pull out of the International Criminal Court

Bias against Africa is causing South Africa to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

South African President Jacob Zuma waits for a photo opp., at the 25th African Union Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg, on June 14, 2015. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir joined a group photograph of leaders at the African Union summit in Johannesburg on Sunday despite the International Criminal Court calling for him to be arrested at the event. (MUJAHID SAFODIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The South African President Jacob Zuma. Source: TheGlobeAndMail

Last friday, South Africa announced that it will withdraw from the International Criminal Court, which is ICC. This withdrawal is a confirmation and is explained by the unfair targeting of African leaders according to South African government.

The ICC  is based on the Roman Statute, which is a treaty between 124 states all around the globe and was created in 2002 in order to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. Currently, nine out of ten investigations led by the ICC are located on the African continent. In addition, all previous convicted people are African, although people from other continents have been investigated as well. Based on these observations, The African Union (UA) earlier denounced the priority of the court, qualifying it as “a racial hunt” against African leaders.

South Africa first announced their plans to leave the court after criticism of their ignorance to arrest the President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan last year. The South African government let the President of Sudan leave the country after a visit, in spite of the ICC demands to not let the president departure. The Sudanese President was then charged with crimes against humanity and the ICC had a global warrant for his arrest. According to the laws of the Roman Statue, the South African government should have surrendered the president to the court located in The Hague, Netherlands.

The announcement makes South Africa the second African country to announce their wishes to withdraw from the ICC this year. The statement of the government came three days after the Burundi president formally signed the decree, making Burundi the first state to officially start the withdrawal process from the International Criminal Court. Some say this action is a result of the ICC opening an investigation of human right abuses related to the Burundi election last year. However, the withdrawal of South Africa is a bigger concern to the International society and the ICC. South Africa is considered one of the most influential countries in Africa, and experts now fair a “mass-withdrawal” of the African countries.

The withdrawal of the ICC, absolves South Africa from its obligations to the court. However, the government announces that the country ”remains committed to the fight against impunity and to hold those who have committed crimes against humanity and other serious crimes accountable”. The main opposition party in South Africa, the Democratic Alliance, have harshly criticized the government’s decision to withdraw from the ICC. They have expressed that ”the withdrawal is in breach…of the Constitution”, and that the decision undermines the reputation of South Africa as a defender of human rights.



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