South Africa's minister of justice and correctional services, Michael Masutha, speaks to the press in Pretoria, South Africa, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. Masutha said South Africa will soon submit a bill in parliament to withdraw from the International Criminal Court making the country the second this week, after Burundi, to move to leave the tribunal that pursues the world's worst atrocities. (AP Photo)

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South Africa gives one year notice for leaving the ICC

The court in the Hague, Netherlands, comprises 124 states

CNN  — 

South Africa began steps to withdraw from the International Criminal Court on Friday.

A written notice of South Africa’s intention was submitted to the UN secretary general, said Tshililo Michael Masutha, the country’s justice minister. The withdrawal from the international court will be formalized one year after the notification.

The court in the Hague, Netherlands, comprises 124 states from around the world. The ICC is the “court of last resort” and tries four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes. The court was created by the Rome Statute, a treaty first brought before the United Nations.

During the 12 months’ notice period, South Africa will remain under the Rome Statute.

The country’s department of justice said via Twitter that South Africa was “hindered” by certain parts of the Rome Statute, primarily the one that “compels South Africa to arrest persons who may enjoy diplomatic immunity under customary international law, who are wanted by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, to surrender such persons to the International Criminal Court.”

It said the rule forced South Africa to turn over such persons even when the country was “actively involved in promoting peace, stability and dialogue in those countries.”

During a 2015 visit to South Africa by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the ICC had requested his arrest on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide stemming from the conflict in the Darfur region in western Sudan.

Al-Bashir departed the country without getting arrested.

The ICC has come under criticism by African leaders for what they say unfairly targets them.

South Africa’s justice minister added that the country remains committed to holding those who committed crimes against humanity accountable, and that it intended to work closely with the African Union and other African countries.