Johannesburg, 21 October 2016 – The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) expresses its great disappointment with South Africa’s delivery of the instrument of withdrawal to the United Nations on 19 October 2016, commencing the process of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Whilst questions remain regarding the legality of the withdrawal and whether the correct procedures were followed, SALC would like to strongly condemn the actions of the South African government.
According to Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC Executive Director, “The ICC remains as an important pillar of international criminal justice and South Africa’s withdrawal from the only permanent international criminal court signals unfortunate disregard for human rights and the fight against impunity. South Africa, formerly at the forefront of international criminal justice in Africa, has taken a retrogressive step that raises great concern about the government’s priorities with regard to matters of justice, accountability and the prevention of egregious crimes”. The consequences of withdrawal are grave and it is the ordinary people and the victims who will bear the brunt of the government’s ill-conceived actions.
Withdrawal not only affects the international criminal justice landscape but it also affects South Africa’s domestic capabilities to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity as they continue to dismantle the legislative framework (namely the ICC Act) that allows for domestic prosecutions. Given that there are currently no regional courts with criminal jurisdiction, victims of these heinous crimes will find no respite domestically, regionally and internationally.
The government’s position shows little regard for the victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and raises issues of access to justice domestically and regionally.
SALC will consider all legal options as it seeks to protect the rule of law and international criminal justice.