South Africa’s ruling party wants the country to quit the “unfair” International Criminal Court – meaning it won’t have to detain Putin for war crimes if he visits the summit later this year.
- President Cyril Ramaphosa said that not all countries are treated equal
- The arrest warrant issued by the ICC means that Pretoria will have to detain Putin upon his arrival
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that his ruling African National Congress party had decided that South Africa should withdraw from the “unfair” International Criminal Court, which last month issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March, which means Pretoria, which is due to host a summit of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa bloc this year, will have to detain him upon his arrival.
“Yes, the ruling party … has taken this decision that it is wise for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC,” Ramaphosa said during a press conference hosted with visiting Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto.
Ramaphosa said the decision, which came after a weekend meeting of the African National Congress, was reached “to a large extent” due to what is seen as the court’s unfair treatment of some countries.
“We would like the issue of unfair treatment to be properly discussed, but in the meantime the ruling party has decided once again that it should withdraw,” he said.
Pictured: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) and President of Finland Sauli Niinisto (L) hold a joint press conference during his state visit to South Africa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 25, 2023
Pictured: Russian President Vladimir Putin (file photo). The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March, which means Pretoria, which is due to host a summit of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa bloc this year, will have to detain him upon his arrival.
The arrest warrant against Putin followed accusations that the Kremlin illegally deported Ukrainian children.
On whether South Africa would arrest Putin, Ramaphosa said “that matter is under consideration”.
But his party’s general secretary, Fikile Mbalula, announced earlier that “Putin can come at any time in this country.”
“This ICC does not serve the interests of all but the interests of a few,” Mbalula told a separate news conference.
Pretoria has close ties with Moscow dating back decades, when the Kremlin supported the ANC’s fight against apartheid.
The continental power has refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine that has largely isolated Moscow on the international stage, saying it wants to remain neutral and prefers dialogue to end the war.
Pictured: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (R) and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) arrive during the welcoming ceremony for the state visit to South Africa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 25, 2023
South Africa has “embraced this position of non-alignment to ensure that we, as a country, can play a role in helping to end the conflict,” Ramaphosa said.
He said he had spoken to Putin several times and that my message was clear. There must be negotiation.
This is not the first time South Africa has tried to withdraw from the ICC.
It tried in 2016 after a dispute a year earlier when then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir visited the country to attend an African Union summit. It refused to arrest him even though the then-leader is facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
However, the controversial decision to withdraw was overturned when a district court ruled such a move would be unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, it conducted a controversial joint military exercise with Russia and China, which critics cited as evidence of a tilt toward the Kremlin.