SABC News - Government stands by its decision leave ICC :Thursday 3 November 2016

Government stands by its decision leave ICC

Thursday 3 November 2016 21:32

Abongwe Kobokana

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha briefed parliament on the decision  to exit ICC

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha briefed parliament on the decision to exit ICC(SABC)

Government says it was not reckless in its decision to withdraw the country's membership of the Rome Statute which gave rise to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Michael Masutha has briefed parliament on Thursday on the reasons for the government's decision. He says despite this, government is still committed to upholding human rights and constitutional values on the international stage.

"The decision to withdraw from the ICC was not taken lightly by the cabinet. It was taken after a careful consideration of the relevant issues including South Africa's obligations in terms of Rome Statute itself. In its international standing the African Union of which South Africa is a member and the role South Africa plays to ensure that conflicts are resolved peaceful in the African continent and elsewhere."

Despite the minister's statement and reasons, not a single opposition party was willing to support the move, describing it as an ill-informed move with no good reason.

EFF MP Sam Matiase said while he agrees that the ICC is faced with many questionable decisions that show its inequality in terms of treatment of its members, leaving the court was not a wise decision.   

"While the ICC is not the best body to fill that spot. but it is irresponsible for South African government to withdraw from it. that is placing South Africa with no oversight or whatsoever. We should have sought other avenues before taking such a drastic action. And if you are sure of your greatness, the greatness of your decision, subject this decision to a referendum."

Others believe that the decision to withdraw from the ICC was because of government's failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes in 2015.

IFP MP Albert Mncwangu says this decision by cabinet is disappointing. "Madam speaker we are very concerned that we could be perceived that wanting to sacrifice justice at the altar of impunity."

The UDM made reference to other international institutions like the United Nations with similar problems, which South Africa has chosen not to quit. UDM Chief Whip Nqabayomzi Nkwankwa says this indicates a double standard.

"We should explore all the avenues available to us including to reform the ICC. The other question is important because we have the challenges with all the other multilateral institutions and we do not withdraw from them. We try to make concerted efforts to reform them."

The ACDP says by taking this decision, South Africa is depriving itself of a platform to continue to raise its grievances. ACDP MP  Steve Swarts says: "By withdrawing we will certainly loose this moral ground. The ACDP believes that rather than withdrawing we should have rather continued  to raise  our concerns with the un and the ICC in an attempt to have our issues and concerns addressed."

In response, Minister Masutha defended the stance taken by South Africa. "You are are accusing us of doing this behind parliament. Do you remember that not once but at least not less than twice, the House sat and heard a full debate in the last twelve months on this matter. The majority party in its NGC agreed that we are going to take this direction and they made their intentions public known. So where is the secrecy in all of this?"

The ICC, set up in 2002, is often accused of bias against Africa and has also struggled with a lack of cooperation, including from the United States which has signed the court's treaty but never ratified it.

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