South African court blocks govt's ICC withdrawal bid

Wed Feb 22, 2017 12:35pm GMT

By James Macharia

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's High Court blocked the government's attempt to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday, the latest blow to scandal-plagued President Jacob Zuma from an assertive post-apartheid judicial system.

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the government would press ahead with withdrawing from the Hague-based tribunal, noting that the ruling was based largely on procedure - that the decision to pull out did not pass first through parliament.

The ICC, which was launched in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Pretoria notified the United Nations of its intent to withdraw in October, starting a year-long divorce period that would have made South Africa the first country to quit the court in October this year.

However, High Court Judge Phineas Mojapelo told the government to tear up its withdrawal notice, saying it was "unconstitutional and invalid" because it had not passed through parliament.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which brought the court application, said the ruling was a reminder of South Africa's departure under Zuma from the international idealism that typified its foreign policy under Nelson Mandela.

"This is a victory for the rule of law and indeed for our country's human rights-based foreign policy which Zuma and his cronies have tried so hard to depart from," DA spokesman James Selfe said.

"Clearly Zuma and his ANC have absolutely no respect for the constitution."   Continued...

The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen/File Photo
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