In June, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan attended the African Union (AU) Summit in South Africa. He returned to Sudan, despite an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest. South Africa’s failure to arrest al-Bashir was a stark reminder that tensions between ICC and the AU remain unresolved.
Commentators are divided on how South Africa (SA) should have responded. The country’s position on the ICC is now unclear, given its support for the court’s role in promoting international criminal justice in the past.
With the prospect of South Africa, and possibly other African states, withdrawing from the ICC’s Rome Statute, how do African states plan to prevent impunity for international crimes on the continent? This seminar assessed the legal and political implications for South Africa and Africa’s relationship with the ICC. It also considered the future of international criminal justice on the continent.
The seminar was chaired by Anton du Plessis, Managing Director of the ISS. Speakers were John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in SA and Howard Varney, a Senior Consultant with the International Centre for Transitional Justice and an advocate at the Johannesburg Bar.
Two arrest warrants against al-Bashir were issued by the ICC in 2009 and 2010 for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur. SA is a state party to the ICC’s Rome Statute, a legally binding treaty that obliges states parties to arrest any fugitive present in its territory and surrender him or her to the ICC for trial. At the same time, al-Bashir was in SA at the invitation of the AU, which means that certain diplomatic and official immunities from criminal justice apply. Key discussion points from the seminar were: