Vladimir Putin, targeted by an arrest warrant from the ICC, will he be arrested if he goes to South Africa for the BRICS summit? Pretoria has announced that it will guarantee diplomatic immunity to participants, angering the opposition.
“It is normal practice when countries organize international conferences to publish such notices,” Naledi Pandor said on June 1 in Cape Town during a press conference after a meeting. meeting of BRICS foreign ministers. The head of South African diplomacy was then questioned about a “possible arrest” of Vladimir Putin if he went to Johannesburg at the end of August for the summit of the organization.
“Each time South Africa hosts an international conference or summit, we publish in the Official Journal the immunities and diplomatic privileges, there is nothing extraordinary about that,” insists an attaché. “We have done this before when we hosted BRICS in 2018, in 2013, COP 17, WSSD [Sommet mondial sur le développement durable]“, he shells.
In a document published on May 29 on the South African government website, signed by Naledi Pandor, the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) announced that it would guarantee diplomatic “immunities and privileges” to participants in future meetings of the BRICS. An “ordinary” procedure, South African diplomacy said the next day on its Facebook page, aimed at “protecting the conference and its participants from the jurisdiction of the host country” for the duration of the event.
The ministry added that this immunity was valid “for the conference and not for specific individuals” and that it did not cancel “the mandates of international tribunals” that may have been issued against participants. A line reiterated on June 1 by Naledi Pandor’s attaché. This opinion, which seemed to concern Vladimir Putin, put the wind up the opposition. Invited to the Johannesburg summit, the Russian president has been the target of an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) since March, accusing him of “illegal deportation” of Ukrainian children.
Pretoria has refused to condemn Moscow since the start of the war in Ukraine, claiming to hold a neutral position and want to favor dialogue, which worries Westerners in particular. “We cannot allow conflict in one part of the world to replace the ambition to eradicate global poverty, the greatest global challenge,” Ms. Pandor said.
Pretoria under pressure
However, unlike Russia – or other countries such as the United States or even China – South Africa recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC. In the wake of Dirco’s announcement, the main opposition party announced that it would take legal action to force the government to arrest the Russian president if he were to visit the country. No “legal ambiguity” should persist, said the Democratic Alliance in its statement. A procedure that the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs refused to comment on, insofar as it concerns the Minister of Justice. “If I were to be named as an interviewee, I did not personally receive the documents,” she added.
On the side of the Kremlin, on May 30, the spokesman for the presidency Dmitri Peskov assured that Russia would be “duly represented” at the annual BRICS summit, without specifying whether Vladimir Putin intended to go there. According to an article published in The Telegraph, released the same day, senior South African government officials are reportedly pushing for Pretoria to move the summit to China. “If I understand correctly, this news was only published in one of the English tabloids, and I don’t read English newspapers,” replied Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dryly, when asked about this possibility.
Beyond that of the opposition, the South African government, which intends to defend a position of neutrality in the conflict between kyiv and Moscow, is under pressure from Western chancelleries. Earlier in May, the US ambassador to South Africa directly accused Pretoria of supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia, following the docking of a Russian freighter at a naval base in country in December 2022.
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