Putin arrest warrant prompts South Africa to seek legal advice
The government is taking legal advice on how to handle an International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin in the event the Russian leader attends a Brics summit in South Africa in August.
The ICC issued the warrant on March 18 for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court and may be obliged to execute the arrest order.
“We are awaiting a refreshed legal opinion on the matter,” international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor told the SABC on Friday. “We are concerned about the situation of the people of Ukraine. What we would want to do is be in a position where we could continue to engage with both countries to persuade them towards peace.”
South Africa has adopted a neutral stance on Russia’s war with Ukraine. The government’s position has drawn opprobrium from some of the nation’s biggest trading partners, including the US and EU, and some of the nation’s biggest banks.
South Africa is unlikely to arrest any visiting head of state, said two officials at the foreign ministry who declined to be identified. The government and the ANC are considering all options in an effort to avoid executing the warrant, they said.
The foreign ministry declined to comment.
The Kremlin has yet to decide whether Putin will travel to South Africa for the summit, Interfax reported, citing spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
South Africa drew international criticism in 2015 when it refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir while he was attending an AU meeting in the country. Former South African president Jacob Zuma proposed withdrawing from the ICC in 2016, though that plan was later abandoned.
The government is scheduled to host a delegation of Russian ministers next week for a meeting of the two nations’ Joint Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation.
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