South Africa: Opposition to block Putin’s visit

South Africa’s main opposition party said on Tuesday it had taken legal action to ensure that Vladimir Putin was arrested if he set foot in the country, where he will attend a summit in 8 September.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is asking the court to issue an “order” stating that if Putin goes to South Africa to attend the BRICS summit (a group of countries that includes South Africa, Brazil, China, India and Russia). the government had to arrest him, at the request of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Hague-based ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for war crimes “deporting” Ukrainian children as part of Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine.

Since South Africa is a member of the ICC, it is theoretically advisable to arrest the Russian president when he arrives in the country.

However, Pretoria, which maintains close diplomatic ties with Moscow and insists on “neutrality” in the Ukraine conflict, has yet to say whether it will do so.

The DA explained that it had made a “pre-emptive” judicial request to ensure that the government “respects its obligations” and turns over Mr Putin to the ICC should he visit South Africa.

The statement said there should be no “judicial ambiguity”.

Kremlin spokesman Vladimir Peskov on Tuesday only said that Russia would have “valid representation” at the Brics summit, without specifying whether Putin planned to attend.

He added that Moscow “of course” assumes that its BRICS partners “will not be guided” by “illegal decisions”, namely the ICC arrest warrant.

Legal action by DA’s came as the government grants diplomatic immunity to officials attending this week’s meeting of BRICS foreign ministers followed by a summit of heads of state in August.

Some see the decision as a preparatory step to provide legal cover for Putin’s visit, but Pretoria insists it is standard procedure for holding international conferences.

“These immunity’s do not cancel the arrest warrants issued by an international court for any  conference participants,” the State Department defended Tuesday morning.

South Africa has been criticized since the start of the war in Ukraine because of its proximity to Moscow. In April, Mr Ramaphosa said the ICC’s arrest warrant for Mr Putin had handed South Africa “the keys in hand”

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