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South Africa responds to ICC warrant against Russian president


While aware of its legal obligation, a presidential spokesperson declined to speculate on what would happen if Putin visits in August

South Africa has taken note of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) arrest warrant issued for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a spokesperson for President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

The country will hold the 15th BRICS summit this August, with the heads of state from Russia, Brazil, India, and China expected to attend. As a signatory to the ICC, South Africa is obligated to carry out an arrest warrant if a person named in a court order enters the country.

However, Vincent Magwenya has stated that it’s too early to say what would happen should Putin visit the country. “We are, as the government, cognizant of our legal obligation. However, between now and the summit we will remain engaged with various relevant stakeholders,” he told the media on Sunday.

In 2017, the ICC found South Africa in a breach of its obligations by failing to arrest former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited the country in 2015 for an African leaders’ summit. In 2009, the court issued a warrant for him on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in the long-running conflict in Darfur, which has killed around 300,000 people and displaced more than two million.  

Following the incident, South African officials applied to withdraw from the court, a decision that was later reversed after a High Court ruling determined that such a move was unconstitutional. 

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president and the presidential commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, on March 17. The court claimed that the two were complicit in the “unlawful deportation” of children “from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that the warrants are “null and void from the legal standpoint,” while the court is not recognized in Russia.

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