South Africa withdraws from ICC: what next for human rights and Africa?

The recent decision made by South Africa to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been criticized by many, and holds a series of serious implications for the politically plagued country.

At the end of October, the South African government announced that it will officially withdraw from the Rome Statute, the founding instrument of the ICC. The move by South Africa came just days after Burundi, an African counterpart, made a similar announcement to withdraw from the court. The exodus from the international body has raised a number of questions about both the workings of the ICC, and the future of human rights and justice in South Africa and across the African continent.

What does this mean for South Africa?

This announcement can seriously taint the international community’s view of South Africa as a proponent of human rights and a moral authority in Africa, which will reduce their political capital.

The decision exposes further issues with domestic politics and law. Authorities are still waiting on the constitutional court to make a ruling about whether the government violated international or domestic law. By withdrawing from the court, the ruling party seriously undermine any decision made in the constitutional court.

Heavy criticism comes from the main opposition party in South Africa. They said that the decision made by government was unconstitutional, and the legitimacy of the unilateral decision will be taken to the constitutional court. This highlights serious issues with the rule of law in South Africa.

Although South Africa faces criticism for their withdrawal from the ICC, their views on the ICC and their motivations for leaving, are shared by a number of other African states. The future of both the ICC, and South Africa, as a leading voice of international human rights in Africa, is under serious threat.


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