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High Court finds SA’s decision to withdraw from the ICC invalid and unconstitutional

President and Ministers of International Relations and Justice have been ordered to revoke the notice of withdrawal.

The Pretoria High Court’s decision to rule the South African government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court as procedurally invalid and unconstitutional has been lauded by the opposing party.

Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo, in handing down judgment, ordered the President and Ministers of International Relations and Justice to revoke the notice of withdrawal. He also ordered the State to pay the costs of the applicants.

Deputy Judge President Mojapela said: “There is prematurity and procedural irrationality in the notice to withdraw from the Rome Statute by [the] executive without parliamentary approval.”

The Democratic Alliance, the ruling party’s main opposition in South Africa, litigated based on procedural flaws, stating in their heads of argument that government’s notice to Parliament presented the decision as a fact and not a decision which had to be considered.

Steven Budlender, acting for the opposing party told the court: “It does not suggest that Parliament has to approve it. The effect is to bypass Parliament. It is simply telling Parliament for informational purposes.”

Controversy continued to follow government’s decision to withdraw after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited South Africa in June 2015.

According to the ICC, the first warrant for arrest for Omar Hassan Ahmad Al Bashir was issued on 4 March 2009. A second warrant was issued on 12 July 2010. It was expected that in his visit to SA in 2015, that he would be apprehended and transferred to the seat of the Court in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes committed in Sudan between 2003 and 2008.

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