Bar leaders urge President Zuma to reconsider withdrawing South Africa from the ICC

Posted On: 
8th November 2016

Four Bar leaders write to President Zuma of South Africa in light of his government's decision to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). 


We write to express our great concern about the decision by the South African government to withdraw from the Rome Statute and thus the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This decision has profound negative implications for the cause of international justice around the world.

The establishment of the ICC has been a great achievement of the global community in the field of law and justice. It underlines the consensus view that there must not be impunity for the most serious crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity - because national justice systems are unable or unwilling to act.

We salute South Africa’s proud history of abolishing Apartheid and the subsequent establishment of a justice system which eschews impunity. We suggest that South Africa has a leadership role in Africa and beyond. Withdrawal from the ICC therefore risks setting a very poor precedent to other nations.

We are sure you agree that impunity from justice is an evil we must all do our utmost to eliminate. Many of our members have worked and continue to work in cases before the ICC and its satellite tribunals, as defence or victim advocates and as prosecutors. They testify to the efficacy and fairness of the Court. Although no system of justice is without flaws, the establishment and operation of the ICC is, in our and in most neutral observers’ eyes, a significant step forward in the fight against impunity.  

We urge you to reconsider the decision to withdraw South Africa from the ICC. We join our voice to that of many others, from grassroots human rights organisations up to the UN Secretary General, who have encouraged you to review this alarming development.

Chantal-Aimee Doerries QC, Chairman, Bar Council of England and Wales

Paul McGarry SC, Chairman, Bar Council of Ireland

Winnie Tam SC, Chairman, Hong Kong Bar Association

Gordon Jackson QC, Dean, Faculty of Advocates, Scotland