South Africa, a member of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) will be hosting a summit in August 2023. Presidents and other political officials are expected to attend the summit, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following the recent arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 17th, Putin’s attendance, and South Africa’s responsibility in the event of his appearance, has recently come into question.
South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute making it a member of the ICC and is required to act in the correct circumstances. If President Putin was to travel and set foot on South African territory, the latter would be forced to arrest the former. The possibilities arising out of such a scenario portray an immensely complicated situation for all parties involved.
In response to what would be a complicated diplomatic situation, the South African government said it would consult internally as well as with Russia. “South Africa will have to look at existing provisions of our legislation. We also will have to have a discussion as [a] cabinet, as well as with our colleagues in Russia, and really determine the way forward,” Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor told South Africa’s national broadcaster, the SABC.
“I have mentioned the issue of double standards of global affairs. There are many other countries that have been involved in wars, invasion of territory and killing people, arresting activists and none of them have been called up by the ICC,” she said
“We note the report on the warrant of arrest that the ICC has issued,” said Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. “We are, as the government, cognisant of our legal obligation. However, between now and the summit we will remain engaged with various relevant stakeholders,” Magwenya said.
While a challenging diplomatic scenario might arise from the situation, the BRICS Summit is still months away. All parties have adequate time to meet, discuss, and agree on a suitable path forward. In the past, South Africa once allowed former Sudan President Omar al-Bashir into the country and did not arrest him despite an ICC arrest warrant issued against him.