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South Africa to withdraw from war crimes court: document

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - South Africa is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court, according to a document seen by Reuters on Thursday, a move which would take effect one year after notice is formally received by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

A U.N. spokesman declined to confirm receipt of the document, which is signed by South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and dated Oct. 19.

"The Republic of South Africa has 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," according to the document.

The South African mission to the United Nations was not immediately available to comment on the document.

The International Criminal Court, which opened in July 2002 and has 124 member states, is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Burundi appeared set to become the first state to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the global court, after its parliament voted last week to leave. President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a decree on Tuesday, but the United Nations has not yet been officially notified.

South Africa said a year ago that it planned to leave the International Criminal Court after its government faced criticism for ignoring a court order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide and war crimes, when he visited the country last year.

Several African countries have expressed concern that the focus of The Hague-based court has been on Africa rather than elsewhere in the world.

"The Republic of South Africa is committed to fight impunity and to bring those who commit atrocities and international crimes to justice and as a founding member of the African Union promotes international human rights and the peaceful resolution of conflicts on the African continent," the document said.

"In complex and multi-faceted peace negotiations and sensitive post-conflict situations, peace and justice must be viewed as complementary and not mutually exclusive," the South African document said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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