SADC Lawyers Association raises concerns with South Africa’s intentions to leave the ICC

Salc : Staff Writer

Pretoria, 28 March 2017– The Chief Executive Officer of the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC-LA), Stanley Nyamanhindi has today submitted a letter to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services registering SADC-LA’s concern with South Africa’s decision to leave the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. SADC-LA also welcomed the decision by Government withdrawing the Repeal Bill which would have triggered the South Africa’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

SADC-LA’s submission to the Portfolio committee suggested that crimes under international law may be committed anywhere in the world, including in those States that are not yet party to the Rome Statute. The fact that Africa is the largest block under the Rome Statute shows the commitment that African States have made towards the international permanent criminal court. The withdrawal of the ICC Repeal Bill by Government presents an opportunity for Parliament to engage and consult with the public on what is best for the country. We encourage Parliament to take this role seriously and to consider the views of concerned individuals and CSOs in its deliberations on this issue.

SADC-LA strongly supports South Africa’s continued membership to the ICC. The Executive Officer, after presenting SADC-LA’s letter to the Portfolio Committee was quoted as follows:

“As a representative body of law societies, bar associations and individual lawyers from the 15-member states of the SADC region, we strongly encourage Parliament to consider the repercussions of South Africa’s withdrawal from the ICC. South Africa is a regional power and also a continental force which necessitates that it should lead by example in the fight against impunity and heinous crimes. To withdraw from the Statute will, not only be regressive, but also be a blow to the tremendous progress that this continent has made in the fight against these crimes. It will also add fears that South Africa is turning its back on international rule of law.”

SADC-LA’s submission also acknowledges that the ICC faces challenges just like any other organisation. However constructive solutions can be found through engagement with the court. Being a member of the ICC presents a good opportunity for the country to fight and reform the court so that the delivery of justice is not only better, without fear or favour but also fair and satisfactory.

SADC-LA also submitted its recommendation that a mutual understanding be established between Government and SADC-LA for collaborative advocacy on matters to do with the ICC and other matters of mutual interest which modalities can be laid out through a meeting between Government and SADC-LA Bar Leaders.

SADC-LA strongly recommended that South Africa should remain a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and that it should maintain the domestic legislation implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should remain in force.