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Ministers absent as Pretoria revokes intent to withdraw from ICC

CAPE TOWN South Africa (Xinhua) -- The South African government has formally revoked its intent to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The decision to revoke the withdrawal was made by the cabinet on Tuesday and a letter to this effect has been sent to the United Nations, Acting Chief State Law Advisor Ayesha Johaar said in Cape Town.

Johaar, however, refused to take up follow-up questions.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Justice Minister Michael Masutha were supposed to brief Parliament’s International Relations Portfolio Committee on Wednesday to explain the cabinet’s decision, but they were both absent, causing dismay among opposition MPs.

MPs were informed that Masutha was ill.

The minister acting on his behalf, Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, could not make it for the meeting either.

Instead, Muthambi sent Johaar in her stead to explain the decision. But no reason was given for the absence of Nkoana-Mashabane.

The government revoked its intent to withdraw from the ICC after the High Court in Pretoria ruled on February 22 that the government’s notice of withdrawal from the ICC, without parliamentary approval, was "unconstitutional and invalid".

The cabinet said after a fortnightly meeting on March 2 that it abides by the ruling.

In October last year, the South African government announced that it had begun the process of withdrawing from the ICC. A written notice was submitted to then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The withdrawal would take effect one year after the secretary general received notification, according to a notice issued by the government then.

South Africa is hindered by the Rome Statute under which the ICC was established, the notice said.

The Rome Statute compels South Africa to arrest people who may enjoy diplomatic immunity but who are wanted by the ICC.

A case in point is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the ICC for alleged anti-humanity crimes. South Africa rejected a request by the ICC to arrest al-Bashir when he was attending the 25th African Union Summit in Johannesburg in June, 2015.

The South African government argued that in addition to complying with its obligations to the ICC, the country has obligations to the AU, which rules that no organization can arrest any sitting head of state in African countries.

The South African government said implementation of the Rome Statute is also in conflict and inconsistent with provisions of the country’s Diplomatic Immunities & Privileges Act.



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