South Africa has revoked its decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, citing in a letter submitted to the United Nations a recent court ruling that declared the withdrawal “unconstitutional and invalid.”
It was not clear, however, if the statement on Tuesday meant that South Africa had permanently abandoned intentions of leaving the international court, or if it was seeking another way to do so.
Two other African nations, Burundi and Gambia, also announced plans to leave the international court, despite intense international pressure to stay. Supporters of the court fear that such withdrawals — especially by South Africa, one of the court’s staunchest early supporters — would lead to to an African exodus from the tribunal.
The government of President Jacob Zuma has long criticized the international court as biased against African states and, in its most recent public statements, it has maintained its aim to leave the organization.
In the letter submitted to António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, South Africa joined Gambia in pulling back from plans to leave the court, saying that the “instrument of withdrawal was found to be unconstitutional and invalid.”
A South African High Court ruled last month that the decision by Mr. Zuma’s cabinet to withdraw from the international court was premature and procedurally irrational, adding that the government could not make the decision without the approval of Parliament.
South Africa acknowledged that point in its letter to the United Nations, saying that the High Court “found that the approval of the Parliament of South Africa had to be obtained” for the country to withdraw from the international court.
It is possible that South Africa will now seek approval from lawmakers, some experts said, given that the government would be likely to lose an appeal of the High Court decision.
“It’s possible that they withdrew this so they can now follow the correct procedure,” said Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law professor at the University of Cape Town. “Obviously, the process has been tainted, and it’s not going to help them by appealing the judgment of the High Court. So the easier way is to just nullify the whole process and follow the correct process as the High Court indicated.”
8th March 2017