Putin warrant could derail BRICS summit – South Africa
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin has thrown a “spanner in the works” of an upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa, a spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
As a signatory to the 2002 Rome Statute, South Africa is obliged to enforce the ICC’s warrant for Putin’s arrest. However, the country is also hosting this year’s BRICS summit in August, at which the leaders of the world’s largest emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are due to meet.
“All heads of state would be expected to attend the summit. But now we have a spanner in the works in the form of this ICC warrant,” Ramaphosa’s spokesman told reporters.
“What that dictates is that there be further engagements in terms of how that is going to be managed, and those engagements are underway,” he continued. “Once they've been concluded, the necessary announcements will be made.”
Ramaphosa’s government has been aware of the dilemma surrounding the warrant since its issue, with Magwenya last month declining to say whether Pretoria would enforce it. Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that he would dispatch an envoy to Washington to clarify his “non-aligned” stance on the Ukraine conflict.
South Africa and Russia have been close partners since the Soviet Union backed the anti-apartheid African National Congress, which today is led by Ramaphosa. Under his leadership, South Africa has refused to condemn Russia’s military operation in Ukraine or impose sanctions on Moscow, while the country’s military took part in joint exercises with Russian and Chinese forces earlier this year.
Pretoria has its own issues with the ICC, and was chastised by the court in 2017 for failing to arrest former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited the country in 2015 for an African leaders’ summit. Following the incident, South African officials applied to withdraw from the court, a decision that was later reversed after a High Court ruling determined that such a move was unconstitutional.
In issuing the warrant, the court accused Putin and Russian Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova of the “unlawful deportation” of children from “occupied areas of Ukraine.” The charges refer to Russia’s efforts to evacuate civilians away from areas – mostly in the predominantly Russian-speaking region of Donbass – shelled by the Ukrainian military.
Russia – which like the US, China, and India, does not recognize the court’s authority – has dismissed the warrant as “null and void from the legal standpoint.”