The South African government has reversed its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court following the ruling of a South African supreme court which rendered the decision of the government void.
The South African government, prior to the convening of the 28th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, had made known its desire to withdraw from the ICC after it failed to arrest and handover wanted Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir to the ICC when he was in South Africa for the African Union Summit in 2015. The government made its decision known at the 28th Summit when it joined Burundi, Gambia, and some other African nations to ratify a voluntary mass withdrawal of African countries from ICC.
Announcing the withdrawal, the Justice Minister, Michael Masutha cited the court’s bias against Africans. He explained that “Every person tried by the ICC since the treaty creating it was adopted in 1998 has been African.
“Other war crimes trials have been carried out by ad hoc tribunals created after a specific conflict, such as those created for Yugoslavia and Cambodia, or for the Nuremberg trials conducted after World War II.”
The decision did not go down well with the South African Democratic Alliance, the main opposition in South Africa, which challenged it at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
In a February 21st ruling, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the process that led to the submission of the petition to withdraw from the ICC is void and unconstitutional. The judge questioned the hurried nature of the withdrawal, and the decision of the executive to bypass the legislative in initiating the withdrawal, thereby violating the constitution. The ruling, however, did not address whether the South African government could leave the ICC, explaining such decision as is “policy-laden, and one residing in the heartland of the national executive in the exercise of foreign policy, international relations and treaty-making.”
However, the Jacob Zuma-led government has vowed to pull through its decision to leave the ICC. According to the South African Justice Minister, Michael Masutha current government has vowed to continue its efforts to pull out of the ICC. “The intention to withdraw still stands, as this is a policy decision of the executive.”