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South Africa ‘to withdraw from war crimes court’

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South Africa has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), media reports say.

They say diplomats have notified the UN of the move, accusing the ICC of bias against African countries.

Last year, South Africa refused to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes.

He was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg.

Mr Bashir denies allegations he committed atrocities in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region.

What is the International Criminal Court?

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Omar al-Bashir was in South Africa for a meeting of African Union leaders in 2015

Several media outlets say they have obtained a copy of the “Instrument of Withdrawal”, signed by South Africa’s foreign minister.

“The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court,” the document says.

Neither South Africa nor the UN have officially confirmed the media reports.

There are also conflicting legal opinions as to whether South Africa can leave the ICC without parliamentary approval.

‘Runaway train’

Human Rights Watch criticised the reported move.

“South Africa’s proposed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court shows startling disregard for justice from a country long seen as a global leader on accountability for victims of the gravest crimes,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the NGO’s Africa division senior researcher.

“It’s important both for South Africa and the region that this runaway train be slowed down and South Africa’s hard-won legacy of standing with victims of mass atrocities be restored,” Mr Mavhinga said.

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