Evaluating South Africa's Proposed Withdrawal from the ICC: A Way Forward?
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Since 2009, the first permanent international criminal court's operation is known to be marked by diplomatic tension between the African Union (AU) and the ICC. A host of African member states have called for African states parties to withdraw en masse from the International Criminal Court (ICC). On the 19th October 2016, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, without prior parliamentary approval, deposited an official notice of withdrawal from the ICC in terms of Article 127(1) of the Rome Statute. The Pretoria High Court, however, in Democratic Alliance v Minister of International Relations ruled the notice instrument to be "unconstitutional and invalid." This research paper evaluates South Africa's unsuccessful proposed withdrawal, against the backdrop of AU and ICC tensions. Accordingly, the paper critically evaluates South Africa's reasons for a proposed ICC withdrawal, its subsequent failure and the domestic and international implications of either a future successful withdrawal or South Africa's continued membership. The paper's findings conclude that South Africa's attempted withdrawal was primarily based on the diplomatic breakdown between South Africa and the ICC which arose out of the states party's non-cooperation with an arrest warrant for Sudan's sitting head of state, President Omar Al-Bashir, at the 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Johannesburg, June 2015. It is presented, that South Africa's proposed withdrawal was premature and that any future withdrawal from the ICC will have far-reaching legal and political ramifications. Further, this study reaffirms the need for the country's continued contribution to building a stronger, effective and more universal framework of international criminal justice, domestically and from within the ICC.