16 March, 2017

Johannesburg, 15 March 2017– The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) welcomes government’s decision to withdraw the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Repeal Bill which was introduced to parliament in late 2016. Parliament’s passing of the Bill would have started the process of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Department of Justice and Correctional Services announced this move on 14 March stating that the Bill may be re-introduced at a later stage. Whether the executive has the appetite to restart this process is to be seen.

SALC forwarded submissions on the Repeal Bill to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services before the 8 March deadline. SALC’s submission recommended either a scrapping of the Repeal Bill in its entirety or a review of the Bill to include transitional justice measures. SALC’s position is 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.

SALC’s submissions to Parliament suggested that the Bill should include transitional arrangements for ongoing investigations and cases. In the event that government decides to reintroduce another version of the Repeal Bill at a later stage, SALC will continue to advocate  for these transitional arrangements to be included. Reacting to these developments, SALC Executive Director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh commented, “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 seriously and to consider the views of concerned individuals and CSOs in its deliberations on this issue.”

In light of the overwhelming support calling for South Africa to remain in the ICC, South Africa should utilise this period to develop strategies to productively engage with the ICC rather than continuing on a path to leave. 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. SALC calls upon the South African government to seriously reconsider its earlier position to withdraw from the ICC and to look for ways of improving and reforming the ICC from within.

Read SALC’s full submission on the Repeal Bill here: