The United Nations says South Africa is the only country to have formally submitted an instrument of withdrawal from the Rome Statute which created the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is based at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Last week, Pretoria’s decision made the country the first nation to officially inform the UN Secretary-General of its intention to exit the jurisdiction of the ICC, despite reports that Burundi has also done so.

The Secretary General has expressed his deep regret at South Africa’s decision, one which has sent shock waves through the international human rights community, with concerns at the UN that South Africa’s decision may be a prelude to further withdrawals by African countries, many of which are less than happy with the ICC’s actions.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said here Monday: “The withdrawal of South Africa from the ICC is something the Secretary-General deeply regrets.

“We have not received any updates from any other country, there have been press reports, no letter from Burundi, as of this morning, we were not advised that one had been received.

“This is something that concerns not just the Secretary-General, but I think the international community as a whole; but we would hope that all those countries that belong to the State parties, especially those which were part of the founding movement of the ICC, would also have discussions with member States, to ensure that it is important that this key part of the international justice architecture remains strong.”

Dujarric said discussions continue in the UN Secretariat with various concerned member States, but would not comment on whether South Africa had followed the correct legal procedures in announcing its departure from the Court.

“That’s an internal matter for the South Africans. We have received the letter, duly signed by the Foreign Minister. The role of the UN and the Secretary-General as depository of the treaty is to ensure that the letter, the communication is a bona fide one, it comes from the right people and it’s come through the right process and that it has. Internal debates are that (internal).”

Pressed on what Ban was doing to convince South Africa and others to re-assess their position, Dujarric said: “We’re doing it through public statements, we’re doing it through dialogue and other levels.

“The work of the ICC has been critical to bring justice to people in Africa and potentially to other places in the world. The Prosecutor of the ICC is herself African; I think it’s important that all countries that signed onto the Rome Statute, support the work of the Court.”

When asked why the Secretary-General does not call President Zuma, Dujarric said: “There are obviously discussions going on within South Africa.”

South Africa said it had found its obligations under the Rome Statute incompatible with its legal

requirements to provide diplomatic immunity to visiting heads of state.

Burundi had earlier indicated it was ready to withdraw from the Court after both Houses of its Parliament voted to exit the ICC, but a formal notification to that effect has yet to be received by the UN.