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South Africa to withdraw from International Criminal Court

Pretoria has sent a letter to the UN announcing its intention to step down from the 124-nation body. The move follows claims of alleged bias against African countries.

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South Africa confirms it will withdraw from ICC

South Africa has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, according to media reports on Friday. The move follows a dispute over the Hague-based organization's perceived focus on African countries.

"The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court," read the document signed by South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Opened in 2004, the International Criminal Court was the first tribunal granted permanent authority to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Of the ten investigations the ICC has opened, nine of them involve African leaders or governments.

Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi's Nkurunziza was to be investigated for alleged rights abuses that occured in the run-up to his controversial run for a third term in office

Row over Sudanese president al-Bashir

South Africa announced its intention to leave the legal body one year ago, after the ICC criticized the administration of President Jacob Zuma for failing to arrest Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir when he visited Johannesburg for an African Union summit last year.

The 1998 Rome Treaty establishing the ICC dictates that every signatory is legally bound to arrest a wanted suspect in its territory. Al-Bashir was charged by the ICC in 2008 over the ethnic cleansing in Sudan's Darfur region.

South Africa argued that arresting al-Bashir would come into conflict with its treaty obligations to the African Union, but even the country's own court of appeals slammed the move as "disgrace conduct."

The letter says the decision to leave the ICC will take effect one year after the UN confirms receipt, though spokesman Stephane Dujarric said he was "not confirming at this point" whether Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had read the document. The move must also be approved by the parliament in Cape Town.

Once it withdraws, South Africa will become the second country to do so after Burundi. On Tuesday, Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza signed legislation confirming the country would quit the ICC after the parliament overwhelming voted in favor of doing so. That vote came just one day after Burundi had blocked three UN human rights investigators from entering the country.

Watch video 01:49

Do Africans really support the International Criminal Court?

es/rg (AP, Reuters)

 

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