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South Africa pulls out of ICC, defends decision

Barring any last minute change of mind, South Africa might is set to exit ICC over lingering wranglings involving Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir

Barring any last minute change of mind, South Africa might have perfected plans to exit the International Criminal Court [ICC] over lingering wranglings with the “war crimes court”.

Photo shows South African President Jacob Zuma and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir during the later’s visit in South Africa

The country’s Justice Minister, Michael Masutha cited the controversy last year over South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir as a critical reason.

He said that ICC’s stance had forced the country to carefully consider the implications of remaining part of the court.

President Bashir, who is wanted for alleged crimes committed in Darfur, was in South Africa for an African Union summit.

President Bashir’s attendance at the AU summit in South Africa sparked a controversy which has led to the planned withdrawal from the ICC.

Mr Masutha pointed out that South Africa has been asked a number of times to mediate peace talks, at times hosting feuding parties.

South Africa is concerned, he said, that its obligations to the ICC may hinder its own responsibilities to help resolve conflicts on the continent.

The government’s decision has been met with mixed reactions. 

Some have been quick to point out that many richer countries, such as the US, are not signatories to the Rome Statute, which established the ICC, and this has not hindered their involvement in helping to solve disputes.

A BBC reporter in South Africa is tweeting about the press conference of the country’s Justice Minister Michael Masutha, where he’s explaining the decision to pull out of the International Criminal Court.

Masutha tweeted: “Under Rome Statute we’re expected to arrest heads of state and prosecute them in our courts. The consequence would be regime change.”

The minister was also asked whether parliament needs to approve the withdrawal:

His tweeted response: “No legal requirement for parliamentary approval if the executive wants to withdraw. It is the prerogative of the executive.”

The minister says that South Africa is still committed to justice and peace on the continent:

“SA will continue to actively promote dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the African continent and elsewhere,” he tweeted.

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