South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will not seek to withdraw its membership of the International Criminal Court. The president’s office issued such a statement only after the head of state – Cyril Ramaphosa – said it was the officials’ plan. It was pointed out that this was not a status change, but a “communication error during media briefing” correction. The president’s original announcement sparked a lot of speculation because Vladimir Putin, who was indicted for Russian crimes in Ukraine in August, could appear in South Africa.
In August, Pretoria will host a summit of BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, South Africa, China and India), and under international law, South African (South African) authorities are obligated to detain Vladimir Putin if he is Russian. The President, whose arrest warrant has been issued by the International Court of Justice (ICC), will appear in the country.
The Kremlin said on Monday that Putin would soon decide whether to personally attend the BRICS summit. According to Reuters, his decision to visit South Africa could trigger a parliamentary process in that country, where a simple majority would be enough to withdraw from the ICC.
By Tuesday afternoon, it appeared officials in Pretoria might be looking for such a solution. “The ruling African National Congress has decided that it is prudent for South Africa to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, mainly because of the way it deals with (those kinds of) problems,” Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time.
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After this comment, the AFP company explained in a cable that if Putin appeared in Pretoria, the South African authorities would not avoid detaining him, because the withdrawal from the ICC would take effect only one year after the official announcement of this fact.
However, on Tuesday evening, the president’s words were corrected by his own office. “The Office of the President wishes to clarify that South Africa remains a signatory (of the ICC),” it said, “following an error in commentary made during a media briefing organized by the ruling African National Congress.”
An earlier attempt to withdraw from the ICC failed
Western agencies warned on Tuesday that this would not be South Africa’s first attempt to withdraw from the ICC. The country already tried to do this in 2016, when then Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was due to attend an African Union summit, when the ICC issued an arrest warrant for him for war crimes.
South Africa refused to arrest al-Bashir, and a controversial decision to withdraw from the ICC was reversed when a national court ruled that such action was unconstitutional.
South Africa has not condemned the invasion of Ukraine, saying it wants to remain neutral and prefer dialogue to end the war. Earlier this year, it held joint military exercises with Russia and China, which observers see as evidence of the country’s pro-Kremlin sympathies.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / Sputnik / Kremlin Pool
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