Court to rule on ICC withdrawal

Zuma's government had a falling out with the ICC over its refusal to arrest Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir during an African Union summit in 2015. Bashir has been indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity and genocide, but South Africa argued that he was immune from arrest as a head of state attending a continental gathering.

A South African court ruled today that the country's bid to withdraw from the International Criminal Court is invalid and unconstitutional - a rebuke against the government of President Jacob Zuma, NPR reported.

The South African government had violated the constitution by announcing its withdrawal from the ICC previous year without seeking approval from parliament, the South African court said.

South Africa's largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, praised the High Court's decision. This issue lies at the root of South Africa's dissatisfaction with the ICC, and was cited by Nkoana-Mashabane in a statement appended to the notice of withdrawal.

Mojapelo added that government decisions must be based on "the expressed authority of the constitution".

"What is so pressing for the national executive about the withdrawal. which can not wait for our legislative processes to take their course?" the court's ruling said. He said the government would decide how to proceed, including a possible appeal, after reading the full judgement. However, newly elected Gambian President Adama Barrow has said he will reverse his predecessor's decision and keep the country in the ICC.

Is the ICC biased towards Africa?

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South Africa had officially notified the United nations of its intention to withdraw from the Rome statute and 1998 treaty establishing the Hague-based court.

"It's expected that the executive go back to parliament".

Late previous year, Burundi and the Gambia also announced plans to leave the court, leading to concerns that other states would follow. It criticized the government for trying to "steamroll" over the constitution.

South Africa said it was quitting the ICC because membership conflicted with diplomatic immunity laws.

Human rights activists feared if South Africa, one of Africa's most politically and economically powerful countries, left the legal body, other countries would follow suit.

The ruling African National Congress holds a majority in parliament and can force through its decision if it wants.

  • Michelle Webb