ICC in Ivory Coast in 2013Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAfrica has 34 signatories to the Rome Statute, the treaty that set up the court

South Africa’s decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been ruled “unconstitutional and invalid” by the High Court.

South Africa notified the UN of its intention to leave last October, saying the ICC pursued “regime change”.

The court ruled in favour of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which argued that the government had to first seek parliamentary approval.

The court ordered the government to revoke its notice of withdrawal.

In his response, Justice Minister Michael Masutha said the government still intended to quit the ICC, Reuters news agency reports.

The government would consider its options, including a possible appeal, after studying the full judgement, he is quoted as saying.

The decision to pull out came after a dispute over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit to the country in 2015.

South African authorities refused to arrest Mr Bashir despite him facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes.

Mr Bashir was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, when the government ignored an ICC request to arrest him.

The DA welcomed the judgement.

“South Africa does not want to be lumped together with pariah states who have no respect for human rights and who do not subscribe to accountability for those guilty of the most heinous human rights violations,” the party said in a statement.

“Instead, we should recommit our country to the human rights-based foreign policy spearheaded by the late President Nelson Mandela,” the statement added.

South Africa, Burundi and Namibia are among African states that have said they will withdraw from the ICC. They accuse the court of bias against Africans.

The Gambia, which had also announced its withdrawal, has now said that it will remain in the ICC.

This follows a change of government in the West African state.

South Africa’s governing African National Congress has a majority of more than 60% in parliament, making it likely that it will approve approve any final decision to withdraw from the ICC.