JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – *(AA) South Africa has called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reform itself, saying it is concerned that the court is losing its credibility and direction.
“We call for the reform of the ICC. We entered voluntarily and the option of exiting voluntarily still is open,” Obed Bapela, a government minister, said in parliament.
The minister made the statement during a parliamentary debate on Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s recent visit to South Africa and why the government did not arrest him.
“The demand that South Africa must arrest President al-Bashir while he was attending an AU summit illustrates the contempt that some hold against Africa and the Africans,” he said.
Bapela noted that similar demands are never made of the United Nations.
“The U.S. Government, which also called on us to cooperate with the ICC, does not itself prevent heads of state and government from attending the UN General Assembly nor do they arrest them,” he said.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region.
He was in South Africa earlier this month to attend an AU Summit.
A high court in Pretoria issued an interim order preventing him from leaving the country after the summit, following an application calling for his arrest.
Al-Bashir defied the court order, however, and left the country.
The minister said that South Africa joined the court in 1998 because it wanted to lead and thought other countries would follow, but nobody did.
Bapela said the ICC is now losing its direction and its credibility is being undermined, as not every country wants to join the body.
“We are also aware and deeply concerned of the fact that the ICC has fallen victim to the geo-political calculations of the powerful, who demand that it tries some cases while rejecting its involvement in others,” he said.
Bapela, who is also a top member of the ruling African National Congress, said al-Bashir’s arrest would have created instability in Sudan which could have spread to some of its neighboring countries.
Some of the reform proposals made by South Africa demand that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) stop referring cases to the ICC, because not all UNSC members are signatories of the Rome statute, the ICC’s founding document.
South Africa also wants the ICC to demand all countries ratify the treaty so that the court can have credibility.
Bapela said the ANC will present this package of reforms to the ICC and if it is rejected, South Africa will review its membership of the international court.
A high court in Pretoria is set to make a judgment on Wednesday on whether or not the South African government violated the law by not arresting the Sudanese president. High Court Judge Dunstan Mlambo is expected to make the ruling Wednesday afternoon.
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