NPWJ regrets South African withdrawal, calls on States to protect the integrity of the International Criminal Court

26 Oct, 2016 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 26 October 2016

On Wednesday, 19 October 2016, South Africa notified its intention to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, citing its incompatibility with South Africa’s efforts to promote peace and stability on the African continent. This was preceded by an announcement by Burundi that it was withdrawing and followed not long after by a similar announcement by The Gambia. These are the first States to withdraw from the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, which was agreed upon in 1998 and entered into force in 2002.

Statement by Niccoló Figá-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice regrets the withdrawal from the ICC of South Africa.

“While the constitutionality of the instrument of withdrawal without parliamentary consent is a matter for South African courts, the executive decision to withdraw from the Rome ICC Statute sends a clear political message that – despite South African history showing that peace and justice can only be achieved with human rights for all – its current Government will not stand with victims of atrocities. Instead, it seems they would rather side with those who seek to gain or retain power by committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

“We look forward to the day when South Africa will rejoin the community of nations that together have decided that might is not right; that impunity for crimes under international law is a threat and an affront to all of humanity, requiring a global justice response when national systems are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute; and that those who bear the greatest responsibility for atrocities need to account for their crimes irrespective of their official capacity or diplomatic status.

“The legal obligations incurred during its membership in the Rome Statute continue to apply even after withdrawal takes effect including court decisions, arrest warrants and all other binding orders issued previously or that will be issued over the next 12 months. Nonetheless, we call on the Governments of South Africa, Burundi, The Gambia and any other State that may follow suit, to be coherent with their withdrawal decision by abstaining from taking part in proceedings of the next ICC Assembly of States Parties in November of this year, and desist from pursuing amendments in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence or any other action that challenges the fundamental principles of the Rome ICC Statute.

“At the same time, we urge all States Parties to use the opportunity of the Assembly of States Parties to reiterate their commitment to the integrity and the principles underpinning the Rome ICC Statute, including the irrelevance of official capacity, i.e. that there is no immunity for Heads of States or any other officials for crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, and the absolute respect for the judicial independence of the Court, strictly limiting the role of the Assembly of States Parties to non-judicial matters.  Anybody not committed should consider sitting this one out.

“The Rome Statute was founded on the premise that the world was saying “enough”: enough victims, enough impunity and enough suffering. This is as true now as it was nearly 20 years ago. Removing support from the one permanent institution whose explicit mandate is to fulfil that promise is not the way forward to achieving that goal”.

For further information, please contact Alison Smith, NPWJ Director for International Criminal Justice, on or Nicola Giovannini (Press & Public Affairs Coordinator) on or +32-2-548-3915.