A provincial court in South African on Wednesday ruled the government’s plan to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was “unconstitutional”.
The ICC has been rocked by threats of withdrawal in recent months, with complaints focusing on its alleged bias against Africa.
South Africa announced in October it had lodged its decision to pull out with the United Nations.
“The cabinet decision to deliver the notice of withdrawal – without prior parliamentary approval is unconstitutional and invalid,” said judge Phineas Mojapelo in the North Gauteng High Court.
The president and ministers “are ordered forthwith to revoke the notice of withdrawal,” he added.
The court ruling was a setback for President Jacob Zuma’s administration, which would appeal.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, which was one of the groups that brought the court case, welcomed the judgement.
“The withdrawal by the South African government from the ICC was irrational and unconstitutional,” opposition lawmaker James Selfie told reporters.
“We would like South Africa to stay in the ICC because we believe that it is consistent with our constitution and with the legacy of Nelson Mandela.
ICC under threat?
Burundi has also registered to leave, while Kenya is considering the move. It was reported after the recent African Union heads of state meeting that many African countries are working to withdraw from the ICC.
Of the 10 cases being investigated by the court, 9 involve African countries, including all 3 trials. So far, ICC arrest warrants have only ever been issued for Africans.
Thirty three African states have ratified the Rome statute that established the ICC, making Africa the largest continental bloc – the perception that it targets Africans exclusively has left the court vulnerable. As a result, the court is facing what appears to be a coordinated revolt that risks destroying its legitimacy.