South Africa’s path towards withdrawing from the the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was partly cleared yesterday after the country’s Constitutional Court dismissed an application for direct access to challenge the withdrawal by an opposition party.
Its worth noting that the matter is far from over.
The application had come from the official opposition party, Democratic Alliance and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. They wanted the Constitutional Court to hear the matter. This was an attempt to activate section 167 of the Constitution that allows a person to direct access , “when it is in the interests of justice and with leave of the Constitutional Court”,.
This is after the ANC led government resolved to exit the ICC last month. This came after tjhe country found itself in a difficult position over the Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir matter. South Africa had to defy its own court after it was called to arrest the al-Bashir who was visiting the country on an African Union ticket early this year. The South Sudan presedent is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity
South Africa’s Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha said he welcomes the decision of the Constitutional Court to dismiss the application for DA’s direct access in a bid to challenge the Cabinet’s decision to withdraw from the ICC.
The Constitutional Court has considered the application by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution founded on exclusive jurisdiction and in the alternative for direct access, and the application for direct access by the Democratic Alliance. It has concluded that the application founded on exclusive jurisdiction should be dismissed as the matter does not invoke the jurisdiction of that court.
Further the application for direct access has been dismissed on the ground that it is not in the best interest of justice for the court to hear the matter at this stage.
The dismissal of the Democratic Alliance’s application for direct access happens as the Minister travels to the Hague in Netherlands where he will be making an opening statement during the general debate of fifteenth meeting of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court.
However the failure of the attempt to have direct access does not conclude the legal protest against South Africa’s decision to exit the ICC as it can come through other legal channels in lower courts. Many parties are opposed to South Africa’s resolution.