How DA plans to fight withdrawal from Rome Statute
The DA has warned that a proposed bill for the repeal of SA’s commitment as a signatory to the Rome Statute — to enable it to pull out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) — will not pass through Parliament unchallenged.
The bill was tabled in Parliament last Wednesday and will go through formal processes before final approval.
It prescribes a legal framework for how SA deals with international crimes committed in this country.
But DA MP James Selfe, who is also the opposition party’s federal executive chairman, said the bill was flawed and "is not intended to achieve justice for international crimes but will only assist in evasion of justice".
Chief among issues of concern was that the bill "leaves an enormous loophole for prosecutions to be stillborn at the investigative phase".
This, said the DA, was because the bill placed the onus on the "ill-placed" Hawks to investigate complaints related to international crimes. While the bill acknowledged the shortcomings of a Hawk-driven investigation, it had failed to address these, Selfe said.
Being a signatory to the Rome Statute allowed SA to outsource international justice.
When the ICC issued a request to member states for the arrest of individuals for committing crimes against humanity this applied immediately.
However, the bill would require first seeking a warrant of arrest, introducing administrative delays, "probably deliberately", giving a suspect time to flee the country, Selfe said.
Two weeks ago, Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told reporters at a post-cabinet media briefing that the bill would improve protection and access to justice for victims of international crimes.
The DA said that it was still studying the bill. However, at face value, "it is clear the bill is not intended to achieve justice for international crimes but will only assist in the evasion
SA resolved to exit the Rome Statute — a treaty that established the ICC and binds signatories to arrest those sought by the court — after the government’s abysmal handling of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit in 2015 and its failure to arrest him.
In July, the ICC found that SA had failed in its obligations to the statute by not arresting Al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes, including genocide.
In 2016 — after the furore over the Al-Bashir affair — the Cabinet, without Parliament’s approval, attempted to exit membership of the statute.
However, the High Court in Pretoria found that this was unconstitutional.