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20 March 2017 | South Africa

South Africa revokes withdrawal from the International Court


From Desmond Davies - London Bureau
London, March 20, GNA - The South African government has revoked its decision to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) by withdrawing proposed legislation before parliament that would have started the process of pulling out from the institution based in The Hague.

The Department of Justice and Correctional Services announced last week that the Rome Statute of the ICC Repeal Bill, introduced late last year, might be re-introduced at a later stage.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), in welcoming the government's move, said: 'Whether the executive has the appetite to restart this process is to be seen.'

The SALC had forwarded submissions on the Repeal Bill to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services before the March 8 deadline, calling for either a scrapping of the proposed law in its entirety or its review to include transitional justice measures.

Its position was that the Repeal Bill was unnecessary and defeated the country's commitments in the fight against impunity and in the protection of human rights.

'The Bill constituted an affront to the rule of law.

'We accordingly recommended for Parliament not to adopt the Bill,' the SALC said in a statement.

It suggested that the Bill should include transitional arrangements for ongoing investigations in cases.

'In the event that government decides to reintroduce another version of the Repeal Bill at a later stage, we will continue to advocate for these transitional arrangements to be included,' the SALC said.

The Executive Director of the SALC, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, said: 'Although we are uncertain as to the next steps that will be taken by government, the revocation of the notice of withdrawal to the United Nations Secretary General together with the withdrawal of the Repeal Bill before Parliament are positive and progressive developments in the fight against impunity for atrocity crimes.

'This also presents a fresh opportunity for the South African Parliament to reconsider whether or not it will leave the ICC.

'We encourage Parliament to take its role and to consider the views of concerned individuals and Civil Society Organisations [CSOs] in its deliberations on this issue.'

The SALC said that with 'the overwhelming support calling for South Africa to remain in the ICC, South Africa should utilise the period to develop strategies to productively engage with the ICC rather than continuing on a path to leave'.

It added: 'South Africa must recommit itself to the fight against impunity.

'We hope that the state has noted and learned from the missteps in various stages of this process.'

It called on the South African government to now 'look for ways of improving and reforming the ICC from within'.