South Africa’s High Court has ruled that the country’s planned decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is unconstitutional and invalid. Last October, the government made an application to the United Nations (UN) indicating its intention to leave the court as a result of the court’s alleged bias against African nations.
The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled on how South Africa initiated its withdrawal from the ICC’s treaty, the Rome Statute. The court said the executive did not have the power to pullout without prior parliamentary approval.
The ruling is a boost to the beleaguered ICC, which has recently been fighting off allegations of pursuing a neo-colonial agenda in Africa, where most of its investigations have been based ranging from crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, dealing with cases from Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and others.
“What is so pressing for the national executive about the withdrawal from the Rome Statute which cannot wait for our legislative processes (and possibly judicial pronouncements) to take their course?” the ruling read. “This unexplained haste, in our view, itself constitutes procedural irrationality,” the judgment reads.
A win for the opposition – a setback to President Jacob Zuma’s government
The Democratic Alliance (DA), the opposition party which filed the case, called the outcome a “victory for the rule of law.” It stated that “South Africa does not want to be lumped together with pariah states who have no respect for human rights and who do not subscribe to accountability for those guilty of the most heinous human rights violations”.
The court ruling is a setback for President Jacob Zuma’s government, which is likely going to appeal the ruling. The DA, which is one of the groups that brought the court case, welcomed the judgment as a progress in the country which should be a model to fellow Africans nations.
“The withdrawal by the South African government from the ICC was irrational and unconstitutional. We would like South Africa to stay in the ICC because we believe that it is consistent with our constitution and with the legacy of Nelson Mandela,” the DA MP James Selfie said.
The ICC which was launched in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute investigates and, where warranted, put on trial individuals charged with the grave crimes such: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Several African countries remain deeply opposed to the ICC and have threatened to withdraw from the court, accusing the court of being biased against Africans.
The Gambia, which announced its intention to withdraw from the court during the reign of former President Yahya Jammeh, has since rescinded on that decision with President Adama Barrow saying the country will remain a committed member of the ICC.