African Union
Leaders of the AU stand during the opening of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg June 14, 2015. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, or ANC, has voted to withdraw South Africa from the International Criminal Court, or ICC. Deputy Minister Obed Bapela announced the withdrawal on Sunday and described ICC as having “lost its direction.” He further said that the ANC wants to withdraw South Africa from the court after following necessary processes.

According to Reuters, Bapela voiced his concerns over a number of powerful nations, including the U.S., which refuse to be members of the ICC. Despite not being members, the powerful nations reportedly still have the capacity to refer matters to the court. Bapela also said they will carry the African agenda, “…understanding that we are in a world where others trample on some of the issues that we stand for.”

ANC will put a motion before the parliament regarding the withdrawal. It will also ask for the country's withdrawal to be included in the agenda of the upcoming Assembly of State Parties meeting of all ICC members this November.

The motion will also be presented at the African Union summit in January, where it is likely to garner significant support because of the shared belief of African leaders that the ICC unfairly targets Africans.

The South African government has faced criticisms for failing to apprehend Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for genocide charges during a meeting of the African Union in Johannesburg earlier this year. Al-Bashir, who is also accused of war crimes, was allowed to leave the country in June after his visit despite a court order to detain him. Last week, the government asked more time from the ICC to explain why Al-Bashir was allowed to leave the country.

This is not the first time the country expressed its intentions to withdraw from the court. In 2013, as a response to charges against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the AU member states also threatened to withdraw its ICC participation.

Kenyatta was accused of fuelling violence in the country’s 2007 presidential elections. More than 1,000 people were killed; however, the charges have been dropped.

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