The ICJ calls for South Africa to stay in the ICC

Today the ICJ submitted a brief opposing the current efforts by South Africa to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Court.

The brief was submitted in collaboration with a number of South Africa’s leading jurists to the South African Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services.

The brief was signed by Retired South African Constitutional Court Justices Laurie Ackermann; Richard Goldstone; Johann Kriegler; Yvonne Mokgoro, Kate O’Regan, Zak Yacoob.  It was co-signed by Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former judge of the ICC and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).   Wilder Tayler, Secretary General, signed on behalf of the ICJ

The ICJ and leading South Africa jurists call on South African Parliamentarians not to pass The Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act Repeal Bill [B23-2016].

They also urge South Africa to remain a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and engage, where appropriate with other African States, in actively pursuing appropriate reforms within the Assembly of State Parties, with a view to making the ICC more effective in advancing the objectives of international justice.

“South Africa should actively encourage other African states to put in place legislation required to empower domestic courts with the ability to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. South Africa should continue to work constructively with civil society on the advancement of international criminal justice,” the report stated.

“Pursuit of justice and pursuit of peace are complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives that South Africa will best achieve by remaining party to the Rome Statute of the ICC. Its not an either or situation. Protecting heads of States from justice whatever they do compromises peace too much,” said Retired Justice Zak Yacoob.

The report also underscored the danger of an impunity gap if South Africa pulls out of the ICC, as there would be no other effective regional or international forum in which to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law.

“Given the devastating impact of impunity on the rule of law, on development efforts and on society at large, it is vital that South Africa projects itself as a leader in anti-impunity efforts in the region. Pulling out of the Rome Statute of the ICC would crush the best chances that Africa has today to tackle the pervasive impunity that affects the region and would be a most unfortunate move for South Africa and the wider international community,” said Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the ICJ.


South Africa is one of the earliest parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC. It signed the Rome Statute on the day it was adopted, 17 July 1998, and ratified it on 27 November, 2000. Both during the negotiations preceding the Rome Conference that established the Court in 1998, and at the Conference itself, South Africa played a leading role.

However, the events of June 2015 surrounding the arrival of President Omar al Bashir of Sudan in South Africa appears to have engendered a shift in South Africa’s posture, leading many observers to call into question the country’s commitment to international justice.

The failure by South African authorities to arrest and surrender President al Bashir to the ICC, although he had been indicted by the ICC for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, led to the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) taking the government to court to compel it to fulfil its obligations both under the Rome Statute and the Implementation of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (Implementation Act).

On 19 October 2016, the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation gave notice of South Africa’s intention to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services put out a call for submissions to be made to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act Repeal Bill [B23-2016] to be made by 8th March 2017.  The ICJ Brief was filed pursuant to that call.


Arnold Tsunga, Director of the ICJ Africa Programme, and +277 164 059 26

RSA-ICC Withdrawal-Advocacy-Analysis Brief-2017 (Analysis brief in PDF)

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