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Africa Versus the International Criminal Court

South African President Jacob Zuma’s decision to withdraw his country from the International Criminal Court seems to be motivated by domestic politics and personal pride. It is legally questionable, and it may not even take effect; but if it does, it could leave the entire continent worse off.

NEW YORK – On October 19, South African President Jacob Zuma’s government delivered documents to the United Nations (UN) signaling its intent to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many ICC observers were taken by surprise.

A week earlier, Burundi charted a course to become the first member state to leave the ICC. The ICC had indicated that it would investigate, and possibly indict, government officials after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza threw his country into turmoil by pursuing a third term, in violation of the constitution.

Many people have died in the unrest Nkurunziza caused, giving him and other officials an incentive to withdraw from the ICC. But no indictments are pending in South Africa, leading many people to wonder what precipitated the government’s decision.

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