Thursday, June 13, 2024

South Africa should follow intl. law if Putin visits Johannesburg: ICC chief prosecutor

South Africa should do "the right thing" and follow international law if Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the BRICS bloc summit in Johannesburg next month in person, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan told CNN. In mid-March, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian presidential commissioner for children’s rights over the Ukraine war.

The term BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to describe the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The BRIC bloc had its first summit in 2009 in Russia, and South Africa joined in 2010.

ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russia’s children’s rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova in March over the war crime of unlawful deportation of children. Russia – like the US, Ukraine and China – is not a member of the ICC.

As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, Putin would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia. Most countries on Earth – 123 of them – are parties to the treaty, and the ICC statute states that all state parties have the legal obligation to cooperate with the court. It means that they’re obliged to execute arrest warrants.

However, South Africa — the host for this year’s BRICS summit — has issued diplomatic immunity to all officials attending a summit in August, meaning Putin might be able to travel to the country despite the ICC warrant for his arrest.

South African officials insist that this is standard protocol and it may not override the ICC arrest warrant. South Africa has not received any confirmation as to whether Putin would attend the summit, according to Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations.

“South Africa has felt a crime against humanity for decades, the crime of apartheid, I don’t think they need lessons from me,” he stated.

“They are voluntarily a state party to the ICC, they know what the law is, and I think they would do the right thing. And we will assess what actually happens at the BRICS summit and respond accordingly,” Khan, the ICC prosecutor, told CNN on Friday.

“I am a prosecutor, I need to be prudent and prepared for different scenarios with the tools I have available,” he continued, adding, “South Africa, and I’ve said it before, and I mean it, is a respective state party. Whenever I look at South Africa, I recall the greatness of the great Mandela. And I think all South Africans will look to him, not to me, about what would the great Nelson Mandela do.”

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