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SOUTH Africa has begun the formal process of leaving the International Criminal Court (ICC); in a letter sent to the UN by foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the country said “its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts” are incompatible with the “interpretation given by the International Criminal Court” of the Rome Statute, the court’s founding charter.
A bill that would repeal legislation that adopted the ICC into South African law will “soon” be tabled to the country’s parliament, said justice minister Michael Masutha.
Last year, a South African court criticised the government for refusing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who was visiting Johannesburg for an African Union (AU) meeting. Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes.
The decision comes weeks after Burundi’s parliament voted to leave the Hague-based court. The court has been accused of being biased towards Africa; presidents such as Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta have publicly denounced the court as a tool of Western imperialism.
It is feared that the decision, coming from a country of South Africa’s geopolitical stature (at least in the African context) may trigger a domino effect among African countries, which would then permanently discredit the world’s first permanent war crimes court.
Still, amid the anti-ICC rhetoric, there are three African countries that have joined the Rome Statute in the past five years, suggesting that it is not inevitable that all will fall into step and follow South Africa’s lead.[table id=215 /]
-CORRECTION and UPDATE: When this list was first published in 2010, it omitted Burkina Faso, which signed up to the ICC on April 16, 2004. In the past five years Tunisia joined on June 24, 2011; Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) on October 10, 2011; and Cote d’Ivoire on February 15, 2013.