Pretoria – South Africa has moved to clarify its participation in the International Criminal Court (ICC), saying it remains a signatory to the Rome Statute.
Responding to earlier suggestions of a possible exit from the voluntary treaty body, the Presidency said it, “wishes to clarify that South Africa remains a signatory to the Rome Statute and will continue to campaign for equal and consistent application of international law”.
South Africa is chairing the BRICS group of countries later this year in August. Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, and China are expected to attend in person.
The clarification comes amid confusion over the anticipated attendance in person of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the ICC has issued a warrant of arrest related to the war in Ukraine.
South Africa has steadfastly refused to take sides in the conflict in Ukraine, which Russia says is a special military operation.
ICC member states are expected to arrest Putin should he visit their countries – something that has placed South Africa in a dilemma.
The governing African National Congress (ANC) weighed in on the matter suggesting that South Africa would pull out of the ICC to avoid having to arrest Putin.
In a communique late Tuesday, the Presidency conceded that “based on public discussion and pronouncements on South Africa’s participation in the ICC had become confusing”.
The Presidency has since moved to set the record straight, saying: “This clarification follows an error in a comment made during a media briefing held by the governing ANC on South Africa’s status with regard to the ICC.
“Regrettably, the President erroneously affirmed a similar position during a media session.”
Vincent Magwenya, Spokesperson to the President stated: “South Africa remains a signatory to the ICC in line with a resolution of the 55th National Conference of the ANC – held in December 2022 – to rescind an earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC”.
Magwenya added: “The December resolution was reaffirmed at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC during the weekend of 21 to 24 April 2023.
“The NEC had also reflected on the potential withdrawal from the ICC as an option that would arise as a measure of last resort in the absence of legal options that would result in fairness and consistency in the administration of international law.
“In remaining a signatory to the Rome Statute, South Africa is guided by the importance of strengthening institutions of global governance.”
The Presidency said South Africa will work to invigorate the Malabo protocol that would establish a continental criminal court that would complement the ICC as a court of last resort.
“Furthermore, South Africa is considering a legislative amendment that would domesticate the Rome statute so that it reflects all the articles of the Rome Statute,” explained Magwenya.
“This includes the provision of article 98 of the statute that requires a waiver of immunities for persons charged by the ICC from third party countries where there is no referral by the United Nations Security Council.
“The manner in which the UK domesticated the Rome Statute to incorporate the provisions of article 98 has been recommended as a guideline case study.”