Johannesburg — The South African government has said it will extend its Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act to all international officials who plan to attend an August summit in the country. The controversial move was clearly an attempt to pave the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit South Africa despite the International Criminal Court (ICC)in March on allegations .
As a signatory to the ICC, South Africa could be forced to arrest Putin if he sets foot in the country, but his government appears to be looking for a way around that obligation.
Senior government officials told CBS News that Putin’s possible attendance at the BRICS bloc summit of developing nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has been discussed at the “highest levels” in South Africa since the arrest. warrant has been issued.
In April, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed an inter-ministerial committee led by his vice-president Paul Mashatile to look into the matter. CBS News understands that the government is examining the wording of the Rome Statute, the charter that established the ICC, for a possible loophole that would allow Putin to attend without South Africa having to arrest him.
Article 98 of the Rome Statute of the ICC states: “The Court may not grant a request for surrender or assistance which would require the requested State to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law which concerns the State or diplomatic immunity of a person… from a third State, unless the Court can first obtain the cooperation of this third State with a view to lifting the immunity. »
This wording suggests that Putin could only be arrested in South Africa if Russia agreed to waive Putin’s immunity from prosecution, granted by the decision on Tuesday, which it obviously would not do.
Speaking on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “Russia attaches enormous importance to the development of this (BRICS) integration format. And Russia will participate in this summit at the appropriate level.” Russian officials previously said Putin had been invited to attend the summit.
“Of course, we are counting on the minimum that partner countries in such an important format will not be guided by such illegal decisions,” Peskov replied when pressed about the possibility of Putin being arrested at the summit. . Russia, which like the United States is not a signatory to the ICC, has always rejected Putin’s indictment by the international tribunal as baseless and illegal.
This is the second time the South African government has attempted to use Article 98 of the Rome Statute. The first time was in June 2015, when the ICC asked the government to arrest then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who had traveled to Johannesburg to attend a summit of the Union African. His arrival in the country sparked frantic diplomatic talks as a South African high court heard arguments over a request that would have compelled authorities to arrest him. His sudden and premature departure allowed him to leave the country safely – just before the High Court decided to detain him.
Ramaphosa in April caused confusion when he appeared, saying the ruling African National Congress Party, of which he is chairman, would push for the government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Officials around Ramaphosa quickly returned those comments.
South Africa’s relations with the United Statessince the country took a “non-aligned stance” on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The relationship soured further earlier this month when US Ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety, speaking to local media, accused South Africa of secretly loading weapons onto a sanctioned Russian ship in the port of Simon’s Town in December 2022, before the ship returns to Russia with its Contents.
Brigety said it was “fundamentally unacceptable”.
His comments came after tension erupted in February when South Africaoff its coast with Russian and Chinese warships.
South Africa and Russia have a strong relationship forged during the years of the apartheid regime. Moscow supported the current African National Congress when it was still a liberation party fighting to end the racist regime.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is currently in Kenya, has confirmed that he will attend the meeting of BRICS foreign ministers later this week in Cape Town.
Elizabeth Holmes set to report to Texas prison camp to begin her 11-year sentence
Iowa woman rescued 24 hours after her apartment building partially collapsed
Ukraine and Russia exchange drone attacks