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South Africa reverses plan to leave International Criminal Court

South Africa's High Court ruled that a withdrawal required the consent of Parliament.

By Ed Adamczyk
South Africa reverses plan to leave International Criminal Court
South Africa withdrew its plan to leave the international Criminal Court on Tuesday, through a letter to the United Nations, after the South African High Court ruled the government of President Jacob Zuma, pictured, cannot unilaterally arrange a withdrawal. Zuma has been a frequent critic of the ICC File Photo by Chip Somodevilla/UPI | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- South Africa revoked its decision to leave the International Criminal Court in a letter submitted to the United Nations.

It said Tuesday that its intention to leave the court, announced in 2016, was reversed because a ruling by a South African court made the withdrawal plan "unconstitutional and invalid." The government of President Jacob Zuma requires parliamentary approval for such a move.

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Zuma has been critical of the ICC, which was created to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity, suggesting it is biased against African nations by largely pursuing African leaders and not suspects in other, more powerful countries. South Africa's intent to leave the court was announced after Sudanese President Hassan al-Bashir, wanted by the court on genocide charges, was allowed to leave a 2015 African Union meeting held in South Africa. Under ICC rules, South Africa was legally obligated to arrest him, and it did not.

The reversal Tuesday left unclear if South Africa had abandoned plans to leave the court or if another way to do so will be sought. Since Zuma's African National Congress Party is the majority party in Parliament, a legislative attempt to leave the court would likely be approved.

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The ICC was formed in 2002, and only Africans have been prosecuted thus far. The Rome Statute, which established the court, was ratified by 123 countries, 34 of them in Africa. The United States is not a signatory to the statute. A non-binding resolution, passed in January by the African Union, called for the mass exodus of African countries from the court.

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