CAPE TOWN, -- South Africa remains committed to upholding human rights despite withdrawing from the Roman Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), says Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha.

Speaking in a debate in Parliament here Thursday on South Africa's withdrawal from the ICC, he said: South Africa's commitment to the protection of human rights and the fight against impunity is unwavering, despite this decision to withdraw.

"This commitment was forged in the struggle for liberation against the inhumanity of colonialism and apartheid, and based on the values of our nation namely human rights, freedom and dignity, as aspired to in the Freedom Charter, which was adopted by the people of South Africa in 1955 and enshrined in our Constitution.

South Africa has always and will always condemn in the strongest terms human rights violations and international crimes wherever they may occur and call for accountability from those responsible."

The debate followed the Cabinet's approved a decision for the South African government to send an "instrument of withdrawal" letter to the United Nations Secretary-General explaining its intention.

National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces Chairperson Thandi Modise have already been notified in writing over the decision to withdraw, the Minister said, adding that the decision to withdraw from the Roman Statute was not taken lightly, given South Africa's historic involvement with the ICC.

South Africa played a significant role in the international negotiations on the establishment of the International Criminal Court and was one of the first signatories of the Rome Statute, he said.

South Africa cannot and will not be silent in the face of serious flaws in the practices of the ICC and will not join the chorus of uncritical loyalty," he added

It is time to ask ourselves whether the ICC, as part of the international criminal justice system, is actually assisting the world to indeed make sure that there is no impunity against the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity."

The process of withdrawing from the Roman Statute comes after the South African government hosted a meeting of the African Union (AU) Commission in Johannesburg last year, a meeting which Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir attended.

The ICC has issued two warrants of arrest against President Al Bashir -- one on 4 March 2009 and the other 12 July 2010. The Minister said the two warrants of arrest were transmitted to State parties and members of the United Nations Security Council for execution. South Africa was one of the countries to which a request for arrest and surrender was transmitted.

The reality is that in an imperfect world, we cannot apply international law with an idealistic view that strives for justice and accountability and thus competing with the immediate objectives of peace security and stability," he said.

South Africa was thus faced with a conflicting obligation to arrest President Al Bashir under the Rome Statute, the obligation in the customary international law, which recognises the immunity of sitting Heads of State as well as the obligation to the AU to grant immunity in terms of the host agreement and the general convention of the privileges and immunities of the organisations of the African unity of 1965.

There is also no clarity on the provisions and the scope of the provisions on the immunities of heads of state in terms of international customary law and the Rome Statute.

Sudan is a non-state party to the Rome Statute that continues to be governed by customary international law. Arrest of such a person by a state party pursuant to its Rome Statute obligations may therefore result in a violation of its customary international law obligations.

Source: Nam News Network