South Africa to alter law for power to arrest Putin amid ICC warrant

South Africa is planning to amend its law to give itself the authority to decide whether to arrest a leader wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Obed Bapela, a deputy minister in the South African presidency. This comes amid growing speculation over South Africa’s stance on its invitation to Russia’s President Putin to visit in August. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Putin over the Ukraine conflict.

South Africa had previously invited Putin to attend a summit of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (Brics). Russia has not yet confirmed whether Putin plans to attend the summit. Pretoria has granted diplomatic immunity to Russian officials attending the event, which the foreign affairs department described as standard procedure.

“In June we’ll be submitting the law in parliament,” Obed Bapela told the BBC World Service’s Newshour programme. Through this law, South Africa “will give itself exemptions of who to arrest and who not to arrest,” Bapela said.

Under current laws, South Africa is obliged to arrest Putin if he arrives in the country, as it is an ICC member. However, South Africa has refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, insisting on maintaining neutrality.

The ICC issued its warrant for Putin in March, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes – allegations that Moscow has rejected. South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has filed a court application to force the authorities to arrest Putin should he arrive in August.

Bapela stated that South Africa is also writing to the ICC about a waiver, referring to article 98 of the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court in 2002. While article 27 states that no one is immune from prosecution by the ICC, article 98 appears to suggest that the ICC cannot ask South Africa to arrest the Russian leader unless Russia agrees to waive Putin’s immunity from prosecution.

The deputy minister also criticised the ICC for its “double standards”, claiming that the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, would have been disappointed by the war crimes court. “Mandela would have said [that] the inequality, the inconsistency by the ICC, is a problem.”

Bapela also referred to past examples of exemptions from international justice, such as the UK’s decision not to extradite General Augusto Pinochet in 1998. The former Chilean dictator was arrested in London at the request of a Spanish judge seeking to put him on trial for human rights abuses during his 17-year rule. However, the UK government released him after 16 months on the advice of medical experts who deemed him unfit to stand trial. Pinochet died in Chile in 2006.

World News

Lilly Larkin

Lilly is a writer with a diverse international background, having lived in various countries including Thailand. Her unique experiences provide valuable insights and culturally sensitive perspectives in her news reporting. When not writing, Lilly enjoys exploring local art scenes, volunteering for community projects, and connecting with people from different cultures.

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