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Parliament must urgently convene to reconsider the government’s decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the founding instrument of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said today.

“South Africa’s sudden notice to withdraw from the ICC is deeply disappointing. In making this move, the country is betraying millions of victims of the gravest human rights violations and undermining the international justice system,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

“South Africa’s support for the ICC, after the country suffered through decades of apartheid, was an important step towards creating rights respecting societies around the world.” 

The South African government has filed a notification of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court with the United Nations. 

The notice of withdrawal follows non-cooperation procedures against South Africa at the ICC after the country failed to institute a warrant of arrest against Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir when he visited the country in June 2015 to attend the AU Summit.

The South African government has argued that it was treated unfairly following its refusal to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir.

“South Africa must not abandon its role as a champion of human rights and justice. The Rome Statute is a covenant between countries that they will no longer allow crimes under international law, including apartheid, to be committed with impunity,” said Netsanet Belay.

“South Africa must constructively engage with the ICC to resolve any legitimate concerns it may have rather than taking actions that will only serve to bring the country into disrepute and harm the global fight for peace and justice. “

Background

The news of South Africa’s intention to withdraw from the ICC comes as a case is pending before the country’s Constitutional Court to decide whether it has violated its obligations under international and domestic law when it failed to arrest President Omar Al-Bashir.

The notification of withdraw does not affect the case and South Africa cannot avoid its responsibilities under domestic and international law by withdrawing from the Statute.

The decision is particularly disturbing as it comes only one week after Burundi adopted a law in Parliament on withdrawal from the ICC.