South African Government

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International legal relations

South Africa has, over the past 25 years, become a signatory to many international and regional human rights instruments and has complied with obligations emanating from instruments.

Over the next five years, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development plans to table country reports in compliance with its international obligations arising out of core human rights treaties such as the Universal Periodic Review, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The department will work towards the finalisation of accession to outstanding international instruments, including the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and many relevant others.

The department will also review, modernise and improve the Extradition Regime and the Mutual Legal Assistance Framework to ensure effectiveness and enhance collaboration with other states in the fight against crime in general. The conclusion of extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties will focus on countries in Latin America and South East Asia.

The main functions of the Chief Directorate: International Legal Relations, in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, is to identify and research legal questions that relate to matters pertaining to the administration of justice between South Africa and other countries, as well as international bodies and institutions.

The chief directorate is involved in direct liaison and negotiations at administrative and technical levels with foreign countries to promote international legal cooperation, and for the possible conclusion of extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements. It also aims to establish greater uniformity between the legal systems of southern African countries, especially within the SADC.

The chief directorate coordinates human rights issues at international level under the auspices of the UN and the African Union. Its functions are divided into eight broad categories:

Owing to the number of departments and/or institutions involved in the execution of extradition and mutual legal assistance, requests and taking into consideration that diplomatic channels are followed to transmit documents, delays are experienced from time to time.

Provisions are included in extradition and mutual legal assistance agreements to provide for direct communication between central authorities.

The drastic reduction in the turnaround time for the processing of these requests should be a clear indication to the rest of the world that South Africa will neither be a safe haven for fugitives nor a breeding ground for transnational organised crime.

International Criminal Court (ICC)

South Africa remains committed to the global promotion of the rule of law and will continue cooperating with the UN system to ensure the success of the international human rights architecture.

South Africa views the ICC as an important element in a new system of international law and governance.

Source: South Africa Yearbook 2020/21