South Africa is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court. The country has reached that decision following a dispute that happened last year. South Africa received the visit of Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan. But at the time the ICC had a warrant for Omar Al-Bashir for the events in Sudan. The charges against him are crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. South Africa did not arrest the president of Sudan as it should have, under its obligations as part of the ICC. What followed was a disagreement between South Africa and the international forum.
South Africa Has Made the Decision to Leave the ICC
This decision from South Africa comes after another African country signed legislation to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. This week, the small country of Burundi made the arrangements necessary to leave the ICC. African countries have long had a problem with what they see as the ICC disproportionately targeting the African continent. But now they have started to act on what used to be just threats. They are actually leaving the international forum.
Dewa Mavhinga is a senior researcher for the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. She wrote a statement this Friday in reaction to South Africa’s decision.
“It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down. Questions remain about whether the government even acted in line with its own laws for leaving the court.”
Said Dewa Mavhinga.
South Africa’s officials wrote and signed the papers that will enact the withdrawal from the ICC this Wednesday. Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has already signed the document.
The document states that South Africa “has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court of obligations contained in the Rome Statute”.
The Rome Statute is something that all countries that are members of the International Criminal Court must adhere to. Under the statute, a country has the obligation to arrest anyone that the ICC is looking for. South Africa failed to do that in the case of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.
How South Africa Failed to Arrest Al-Bashir
Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for the bloodshed that took place in the Darfur region of western Sudan. In 2003, rebels in Darfur rose up against the Sudanese government, accusing discrimination and neglect. Since then, the conflict affected millions of people. According to UN estimates 300,000 have died and 2.7 million had to flee their home.
In June 2015, Omar al-Bashir went to South Africa as an invited guest to attend an African Union summit. The South African government did not arrest him immediately. Instead, a provincial court issued an order for him to remain in the country. In the meantime, the judges were going to deliberate on whether or not they should arrest al-Bashir based on the warrants from the ICC. But Omar al-Bashir left and went back to Sudan before the judges could do that. The Supreme Court of Appeal described the failure of the government to arrest al-Bashir as “disgraceful conduct”.
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