Johannesburg (Agenzia Fides) - "We have noted with sadness the decision by the South African government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC)", say the South African Bishops in a statement signed by His Exc. Mgr. Abel Gabuza, Bishop of Kimberley and President of Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.
After Burundi, South Africa has also decided to withdraw from the ICC, accusing it of not being impartial towards African countries.
"We appeal to the government to reconsider its decision and remain within ICC until such a time that Africa has developed an effective regional court with the capacity and will to demand accountability of all state officials and leaders, particularly the serving heads of governments", said the statement sent to Agenzia Fides.
The South African Bishops are deeply concerned that South African’s "withdrawal from ICC will influence and encourage other African Countries to leave the court en masse" with "disastrous consequences for the thousands of the vulnerable people in Africa who will in the future remain without adequate protection and remedies in the face of human rights violations perpetrated by a serving head of state".
The Bishops appeal to the South African government and other members of African Union to use their regional bloc advantage to ensure that their repeated calls for reforms are urgently and effectively addressed. Such reforms should, among other things, include the shift in prosecutorial policy of the ICC and the withdrawal of UNSC’s referral and deferral powers so that they are conferred either to the Assembly of States Parties or the UN General Assembly.
The Bishops finally launch an appeal to the South African government to use its influence and continental leadership to ensure that sufficient number of member states ratify the Malabo Court Protocol so that it soon enters into force for the establishment of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights. "Now more than ever, given the increasing levels of political instability, Africa needs stronger protection of the vulnerable from their political leaders who commit crimes that shock the conscience of humanity, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression", the statement concludes . (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 25/10/2016)