1 February 2016

South Africa: Al-Bashir, Zuma Hug, Happily Shake Hands At AU Meeting

International Criminal Court fugitive Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir's controversial visit to South Africa last year has added fuel to the push by some African Union member states to withdraw from the International Criminal Court en masse.

President Jacob Zuma over the weekend told the AU summit in Addis Ababa that South Africa's "strongly held view is that it is now impossible, under the circumstances, for South Africa to continue its participation in the Rome Statute. South Africa is seriously reviewing its participation in the Rome Statute and will announce its decision in due course".

AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that AU member states could consider withdrawal "if the ICC behaves in a way where countries have to choose between the AU and the ICC".

She was speaking to South African journalists on Sunday night, following the summit.

An official who attended deliberations between ministers at the AU's executive council on Thursday said there were extensive discussions about the ICC, in which Al-Bashir's visit to South Africa featured prominently.

Kenya again pushed for the withdrawal of the 34 AU member states that are states parties to the Rome Statute. Kenya has been leading the charge for a mass withdrawal from the ICC following the indictment of its president Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. Charges against Kenyatta have subsequently been dropped.

South Africa, a signatory to the Rome Statute, joined the campaign after the ICC threatened with steps because the country had failed in its duty of arresting Al-Bashir when he jetted into the country to attend the AU summit in Sandton in June last year.

Al-Bashir however, stayed away from the Africa-China summit in Sandton in December.

The South African government has argued that, since Al-Bashir came to the country to attend the AU summit, he enjoyed immunity from arrest.

The ANC subsequently resolved at its National General Council in October that South Africa should withdraw from the ICC and that it should be led by "the discussions that are taking place among the member states of the ICC and those taking place within the African Union on the ICC matter".

Al-Bashir last week again attended the summit in Addis Ababa where he enjoyed a warm handshake and hug from President Jacob Zuma before the opening of the heads of state summit in the Nelson Mandela Hall in the AU headquarters. Al-Bashir had to walk past Zuma to take in Sudan's seat, which was behind South Africa's.

Al-Bashir also shook hands with Zuma's delegation seated right behind him, which included International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and State Security Minister David Mahlobo.

Ethiopia isn't a signatory to the Rome Statute and is under no obligation to arrest Al-Bashir.

Dlamini-Zuma told journalists that there have been efforts to "unify Africa's position on the ICC" as a "common force".

A delegation of ministers had already stated the threat to the Assembly of State Parties in November last year, where it was reported not all African countries supported the case.

Source: News24

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