Last year, the government refused to arrest Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.
The South African government has officially begun its process of withdrawing from the United Nations’ International Criminal Court, according to media reports. And it appears to be because of concerns about their relationships with other African nations.
Last year, the government refused to arrest Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes. South Africa says they don’t want to execute ICC arrest warrants as they would lead to “regime change.” Bashir was attending a meeting of the African Union in Johannesburg, and the ICC requested that he be arrested, but the government ignored this request.
Bashir is accused of atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The “Instrument of Withdrawal” signed by South Africa’s foreign minister was obtained by several media outlets, and it reads in part as follows: “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.”
In addition to concerns about causing “regime change,” the South African government also says that it has national legislation that gives heads of state diplomatic immunity, and therefore these arrest requests would come in conflict with that law.
Although 34 African nations have agreed to honor the court’s jurisdiction, most govenrments refuse to act on arrest requests. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was charged with crimes against humanity, but the African Union said heads of state should get immunity during their term in office, which flies in the face of the purpose of the ICC.