NPWJ welcomes South African Court decision on illegality of ICC withdrawal

22 Feb, 2017 | Press Releases

Brussels, 22 February 2017
At the end of 2016, the South African Government deposited a notice of its withdrawal from the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court with the United Nations Secretary-General, becoming the first State to withdraw from that treaty. Today, South Africa’s High Court ordered the South African Government to revoke that notice of withdrawal, saying that the decision to leave without Parliament’s approval was unconstitutional and invalid.

“This is clearly a victory for the rule of law and a shining demonstration of the important role the judicial system has to play in ensuring the proper checks and balances are upheld”, said Alison SmithNPWJ’s International Criminal Justice Director. “Today’s decision gives victims a reprieve and edges South Africa back to 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 South African Government has said it is reflecting on whether or not to appeal the decision and has also signalled its intention to present a Bill to Parliament to withdraw from the Rome ICC Statute. “We hope today’s decision gives time for cooler heads in South Africa’s Government to prevail and decide not to present a withdrawal Bill to Parliament”, Smith added. “If that happens, however, we hope that South Africa’s Parliament will stand on the side of victims and the protection of human rights on which today’s South Africa was built. In the meanwhile, we urge all States Parties to continue to reiterate in no uncertain terms their commitment to the integrity and the principles underpinning the Rome ICC Statute and their absolute commitment to ensuring justice and redress for victims of the world’s worst crimes, wherever they may take place”.

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For further information, please contact Amison Smith, legal counsel and Director for International Criminal Justice of NPWJ, on / +32 2 548 39 12 or Nicola Giovannini (Press & Public Affairs Coordinator) on / +32 2 548 39 15.