South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party says that it will quit the International Criminal Court (ICC) to allow President Vladimir Putin to attend the upcoming BRICS summit, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on April 25.
“Yes, the governing party… has taken that decision that it is prudent that South Africa should pull out of the ICC,” Ramaphosa said during a press conference co-hosted with the visiting President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, The South African reported.
Ramaphosa said the decision had been made at the weekend and is "largely" based on the court's perceived "unfair" treatment of "certain" countries.
“We would like this matter of unfair treatment to be properly discussed, but in the meantime the governing party has decided once again that there should be a pull-out,” he said.
Putin was indicted in March on charges of kidnapping hundreds of Ukrainian children, who had been forcibly relocated to Russia as part of the so-called special military operation in Ukraine.
That presents a nasty problem for South Africa, which will host the fifteenth BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in Durban on August 22-24 this year. It has invited Putin but would have to arrest him if he attends.
South Africa is a signatory and has ratified the Rome Treaty that set the ICC up and so would be obliged to arrest Putin should he attend the BRICS summit, which is a keystone in his plans to build a non-aligned alliance amongst the leading emerging markets to counter Western sanctions.
South Africa has tried to ignore ICC warrants in the past when it allowed Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir to visit the country in 2015, despite an ICC warrant for his arrest. That incident caused the government a major headache both from law suits by civil rights groups in the country as well as badly hurting Pretoria’s international standing.
The government in Pretoria tried to withdraw from the ICC in 2016 in the aftermath of that incident, but the decision was ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court and the effort was dropped.
Pretoria has been dithering on the issue of allowing Putin’s visit ever since. It said two weeks ago that it was seeking legal advice, but it appears there is no legal dodge and the ANC has simply decided that relations with Russia are more important than membership of an international organisation.
As bne IntelliNews reported, Western and Russian diplomats have been travelling the world recently trying to shore up support but Pretoria rebuffed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a recent trip and instead chose to hold naval exercises that pointedly started on February 24, the anniversary of the start of the Ukraine war.
As part of the emerging BRICS bloc, South Africa has come out as a strong supporter of Russia in its ongoing clash with the West. Ramaphosa rebuffed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Pretoria recently to try to persuade South Africa to join the international sanctions on Russia.