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Arresting Putin would be “declaration of war” – South Africa president

Citing “war” risks, South Africa’s president affirmed efforts to avoid arresting Vladimir Putin if he attends an upcoming BRICS summit.
Ramaphosa putin south africa
Cyril Ramaphosa (left) and Vladimir Putin in 2019. Photo: Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant
Arresting Putin would be “declaration of war” – South Africa president

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa stated in an affidavit that arresting Russian President Vladimir Putin during an upcoming BRICS summit “would be a declaration of war,” reports the Daily Maverick.

“Russia has made it clear that arresting its sitting president would be a declaration of war. It would be against our Constitution to risk engaging in war with Russia,” said Ramaphosa in the affidavit.

He cited constitutional duties to protect “national sovereignty, peace and security” and rights to “life, safety and security.”

Per the affidavit, the government must keep confidential how it plans to address Putin’s potential visit. South Africa initiated Article 97 proceedings allowing ICC consultation over problems executing requests like surrendering suspects.

Ramaphosa said the opposition Democratic Alliance prematurely challenged the matter without clarity on Putin attending the 22-24 August summit.

“No final decision has been made that he will in fact come to South Africa. As things stand, there is therefore no cognizable legal cause that could ever ground a mandamus to arrest and surrender President Putin,” stated Ramaphosa.

He said Cabinet determined the summit will assure South Africa’s legal obligations are met through ongoing discussions.

The opposition Democratic Alliane party seeks a court order outlining ICC obligations under the Rome Statute, requiring the Justice Department to forward any arrest warrant, and obliging respondents to ensure Putin’s arrest if entering South Africa.

In May, Minister Naledi Pandor granted all BRICS officials diplomatic immunity, but Russia says this does not override the ICC warrant.

Background:

  • South Africa has vacillated in its response to the quandary of the ICC warrant putting Putin’s potential BRICS attendance in doubt.
  • Upon the ICC’s ruling, South Africa announced it would consult Russia on the matter of whether the ICC warrant would apply and invited Putin to attend via Zoom.
  • Ramaphosa said back in March that South Africa should withdraw from the International Criminal Court, but later his office announced it was a mistake.
  • This is not the first attempt by South Africa to withdraw from the ICC. The state tried to do so in 2016 after it ignored an arrest warrant for former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2015.
  • South Africa has been accused of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine, despite claiming neutrality, by supplying weapons and ammunition and participating in naval driils with Russia and China.
  • The BRICS bloc consists of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Its annual summit is scheduled to take place in Johannesburg in August. Khan’s statements reflect the delicate position South Africa finds itself in as the ICC pushes for Putin’s arrest amid diplomatic protocol.
  • Ukrainian officials and NGOs have greeted the issuance of the ICC arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova, but still maintain the need for a separate tribunal for Russian war crimes.

Related: 

  • South Africa leader calls to negotiate with Russia in 10-step “peace plan,” says Putin welcome at BRICS summit
  • South Africa must honor arrest warrant, ICC says ahead of planned Putin visit
  • South Africa supplied weapons and ammo to Russia despite claiming neutrality – US Ambassador
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