South African judge blocks attempt to withdraw from ICC

South Africa announced its intention to leave the court after the government "refused to detain indicted war criminal Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir at an African Union summit in 2015, despite an ICC warrant for his arrest", NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton explained.

South Africa's North Gauteng High Court today ruled that the government's attempt to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was unconstitutional and invalid, as the government issued its withdrawal notice without consulting parliament.

A South African judge has blocked the country's planned withdrawal from the worldwide criminal court (ICC), saying the move is unconstitutional without prior parliamentary approval.

The decision to leave the court, accused of bias by some African countries, was opposed by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).

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

Victims' only hope for justice is to be heard in court, he said, and urged the Kenyan government to support the court and embrace an worldwide justice system, according to a Hivisasa report.

The high court has ordered government to revoke the notice of withdrawal.

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Meanwhile, government said it will study the judgment and decide whether or not to appeal. Because the decision was made so quickly, and without approval from Parliament, that notice of withdrawal is unconstitutional, and must be revoked.

Under the rules of the court's treaty, a withdrawal does not take effect until a year after a notice has been submitted to the United Nations.

The case hinged on a constitutional interpretation of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branch of government.

Gambia and Burundi also announced a year ago that they were withdrawing from the court, but Gambia's new leader reversed that decision earlier this month. Gambia's President Adama Barrow, elected in December, said earlier this month that the tiny West African nation would remain in the ICC.

The ruling will be seen by many as a victory for human rights in Africa, at a time when they appear under threat. Ministers had argued that the ICC's obligations were inconsistent with domestic laws giving sitting leaders diplomatic immunity.

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

  • Ismael Montgomery