[JURIST] South Africa announced on Friday that the country will officially withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. The government originally expressed [Reuters report] such intentions last year when South Africa refused to act on the ICC’s arrest warrant for visiting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir [BBC profile]. Justice Minister Michael Masutha [official profile] has stated that the country’s ICC membership conflicts with South Africa’s Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act (DIPA) [text, PDF]. South Africa intends to draft a bill that repeals membership and allows the country to address impunities on its own terms. While the ICC has not officially been given notice of withdrawal, the UN has announced that the withdrawal request is being processed. Withdrawal is expected to take effect approximately one year from the day the UN was notified. The Democratic Alliance [party website], the government’s opposing political party, intends to file a challenge to the withdrawal request as soon as possible.
Earlier this month Burundi similarly voted [JURIST report] to withdraw from the ICC amid criticism the court only prosecutes African nationals. Vice President Gaston Sindimwo of Burundi previously announced [JURIST report] the country’s decision to withdraw from the ICC, stating that his government is “ready to face the consequences.” Last week the ICC president stated [JURIST report] that such a withdrawal “represent[s] a setback in the fight against impunity and the efforts towards the objective of universality of the Statute.” Last July an African Union (AU) [official website] advisory board accused [JURIST] the ICC of narrowly focusing its investigations on African government leaders and recommended that African nations consider withdrawing their membership. Should South Africa and Burundi follow through with their recent decisions, they will be the first countries to officially leave the ICC. Kenya has also expressed its intention to move forward with withdrawal as well.