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S.Africa to pull out of International Criminal Court: media

South Africa will withdraw from the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), media reports in Johannesburg said Friday, sparking rapid criticism from rights bodies.

A document confirming the withdrawal plan, signed by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, was published by public broadcaster SABC’s United Nations correspondent.

The “Instrument of Withdrawal” letter said South Africa “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 decision follows a dispute last year when South Africa allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to visit the country for an African Union summit, despite him facing an arrest warrant from the ICC.

South Africa said he had immunity as the head of a member state.

South Africa is a signatory of the ICC, which wants Bashir arrested for alleged war crimes related to the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan.

“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,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“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.”

Earlier this month Burundi said it would withdraw from the court, and Namibia and Kenya have also raised the possibility.

Some African governments say the ICC, which was established in 2002, has shown a post-colonial bias against the continent’s leaders.