Al Bashir debate: Calls for ICC reform

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cape Town – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela has called for the reform of the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying the court has lost its credibility.

The Deputy Minister made the call when Members of Parliament (MPs) debated the implications of Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir’s attendance and departure from the African Union Summit held in South Africa, earlier this month.

When President Al Bashir attended the AU Summit, the ICC released a statement calling on the South African government to fulfil its obligations to the Roman Statute by arresting the President after the court issued international warrants against him for human rights violations in his country.

During his debate speech, Deputy Minister Bapela said the ICC has never targeted any President when they attended other meetings like the United Nations (UN).

“As the ANC, we would like to make the following pronouncements that we call on the reform of the ICC.

“We went in voluntarily, the option of going out voluntarily is still open.

“All countries are not forced to be in the ICC, so South Africa went in there when we were assigned the protocol in 1998 … because we wanted to lead and we thought everybody would follow but nobody followed.

“As a result, the ICC is losing its direction, its credibility is being undermined because not everybody wants to go into it.

“As the ANC, we would like to make the following pronouncements that we call on the reform of the ICC,” Deputy Minister Bapela said.

The Deputy Minister said President Bashir was invited to the AU by the AU, and given the fact that he was not on a state visit to South Africa, he had been given immunity to attend the meeting.

He said any attempt by the South African government to arrest the Sudanese President would have harmed the unity within the AU.

“He was attending a meeting that is constituted by an Act of the African Union which was being hosted in South Africa.

“So we are not going to use the AU to be a platform where we arrest leaders. The UN was never used to arrest any leader.

“…the day it happens, that is going to be the death of the AU,” he said.

When President Al Bashir left the country after attending the summit, the Pretoria High Court had ruled that he be stopped from leaving the country until a court application forcing government to arrest him has been heard.

Government will on Thursday submit an affidavit to the court providing the details and circumstances of his departure following an investigation.

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffrey said while the allegations of human rights violations against President Al Bashir were viewed in a serious light, the ICC was not the court that South Africa signed up for.

“It has diverted from its mandate and allowed itself to be influenced by powerful non-member states.

“We signed up for a court that was going to hold human beings accountable for their war crimes - regardless of where they were from. We perceive it as tending to act as a proxy instrument for these states, who see no need to subject themselves to its discipline, to persecute African leaders and effect regime change on the continent,” he said.

Deputy Minister Jeffery said 36 people have been indicted by the ICC since 2005 and that all of them are from Africa. 

“The record of these cases is not good with two persons found guilty and charges against eight being dismissed or withdrawn or found not guilty.”

The debate had been called by DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who did not attend the sitting.

DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa said questions of how President Al Bashir was allowed to leave the country despite a court order needed to be answered.

“Section 165 (5) of our Constitution clearly stipulates that an order or decision issued by our courts binds all persons to an organ of state to which it applies,” he said. –

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