Imminent arrest as Putin visits South Africa: will he take the risk? | Abroad
Will Vladimir Putin dare to visit South Africa this summer? If the Russian president gets on a plane in August, there is a chance he will be arrested upon arrival and sent to The Hague.
What is going on? South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has invited Putin to the BRICS leaders’ summit, which will take place in August in Durban. BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Putin has never skipped this annual meeting with the leaders of these countries, but there is a good chance that he will be forced to miss Durban for the first time.
The Pretoria government has warned Moscow that Putin will be arrested if he decides to attend the BRICS conference in person. It has to do with the arrest warrant that the International Criminal Court (ICC) – based in The Hague – issued in March against Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian ombudsman for children. They are accused of abducting Ukrainian children to Russia.
Duty to arrest
As a member of the ICC, South Africa is in principle obliged to arrest the Russian president, but it was not a foregone conclusion for Pretoria at first. South Africa has never condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and traditionally has warm ties with Russia, the countries recently held a joint military exercise.
If he’s coming, we have to stop him
President Cyril Ramaphosa previously suggested ending cooperation with the International Criminal Court, but later withdrew those words. Ramaphosa has appointed a commission to study the arrest warrant. The conclusion of this committee is that no possibility has been found to allow Putin to attend the conference. In principle, heads of state enjoy immunity, but an exception has been made for international courts.
Video call from Moscow
“We have no choice but to arrest Putin,” a South African government spokesman said. “If he comes, we have to stop him. The only option we have now is for him to attend the summit via video call from Moscow.”
South Africa has previously had issues with the ICC over the arrest of a head of state. In 2015, then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country. He also has an arrest warrant from the ICC. The South African government has not arrested Al-Bashir, but a human rights organization has gone to court and decided that Pretoria still needs to arrest the former dictator. Al-Bashir did not know how quickly he had to leave the country.
The Kremlin has yet to decide whether Putin will stay in Moscow or fly to Durban.
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