Government withdraws International Crimes Bill
Proposed legislation would have led to SA revoking its membership of the International Criminal Court after hosting former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, whom the court had indicted for alleged war crimes
The government has withdrawn the International Crimes Bill that would have led to SA withdrawing from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
No reasons were given, but Justice ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri told TimesLIVE various factors were considered including “that SA was one of the leading countries which had championed the Rome Statute” that led to the creation of the ICC.
The bill was introduced in 2017 after the ICC requested that SA arrest former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir while visiting the country for an AU summit in June 2015.
Al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the people of the Darfur region in Sudan, but SA allowed him to leave the country despite a high court order for his arrest.
Phiri said recent trends indicated that a number of African states which had withdrawn from the Rome Statute had rescinded their decisions and were instead amenable to reforming the ICC.
“On the balance, it remains far more strategic and important for SA to spearhead fundamental reforms to multilateral institutions like the ICC from within,” Phiri added.
At its national conference in December, the governing ANC resolved that the government should rescind the withdrawal from the ICC and intensify lobbying for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol.
It said it noted its previous position on the continental approach “signalling countries of the continent’s withdrawal and robust engagement had positively impacted and contributed to the ICC being substantively reformed for the better”.
The ANC also noted that only a few African countries had ratified the Malabo Protocol, which had delayed the establishment of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.
The ANC had called for the establishment of an African structure that could hold its leaders accountable rather than relying on international bodies.
Tabling the bill in 2017, then justice minister Michael Masutha said this country's membership of the ICC clashed with diplomatic immunity laws.
“What we were being asked to do [was] for SA to be a guinea pig using the ICC to effect induced regime change through external means to the normal diplomatic process of another nation,” he said at the time.
All those who had appeared before the ICC or had been before any other international tribunal were subjected to such proceedings after and not during their stints in government, Masutha said.
This was because “if you indict a sitting president of another country, you are effectively indicting that state itself”, he added.
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