Johannesburg: The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) expresses deep concern at the African National Congress’s recent calls for South Africa’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. It further regrets that this call for withdrawal will be used to spearhead and encourage other African states to withdraw from the ICC.
The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort seeking to prevent impunity and provide justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Though it faces many challenges and is by no means perfect, it remains the only judicial accountability mechanism that is actively addressing the global commission of egregious crimes.
“The stance taken by the ANC is regrettable and reflects a poor appreciation for justice and accountability” said SALC’s director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, “ the ANC should be promoting human rights, supporting the global international criminal justice project, and showing its electorate that it does not support impunity.”
South Africa and other African nations were at the forefront of the creation of the ICC and since then, it is African states that have made use of the court they created. Currently, all the cases before the ICC are cases arising from African situations. Cases from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali are self-referrals, where the ICC was asked by these signatory states to intervene. Côte d’Ivoire also recognised and accepted the Court’s jurisdiction over crimes committed on its territory.
United Nations Security Council referrals resulted in the crimes perpetrated in Libya and Sudan coming before Court and the Kenyan example is the only example where then prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, acted of his own initiative having given the Kenyan government a chance to address the crimes committed during the post-election violence. This illustrates that the ANC’s claim that the Court is targeting Africa is inaccurate and misleading. The ICC should indeed be encouraged to address crimes perpetrated globally and in other nations where it has jurisdiction but this does not diminish the legitimacy of its current cases.
Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide continue to affect peace and stability in Africa. Unfortunately many national African jurisdictions lack the correct legislative framework and in many cases, the will to prosecute powerful leaders who are usually the chief architects of these crimes.
At the regional level, the existing African Court lacks criminal jurisdiction and under the proposed new protocol it will provide immunity for senior government officials for the duration of their time in office. In addition, sub-regional tribunals continue to be dismantled and disempowered as seen with the defunct SADC Tribunal. This leaves many African victims with nowhere to turn to and no courts to address their grievances. It is against this alarming continental context that the ANC’s calls for South African and mass African withdrawal from the ICC.
“The ANC should instead be encouraging constructive engagement, and seek to work with the ICC not threaten to abandon it” said Ramjathan-Keogh.