South Africa Gives Putin Immunity to Attend ‘World-Changing’ BRICS Summit

JOHANNESBURG – The South African government has granted diplomatic immunity to all officials scheduled to attend the upcoming BRICS summit, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

International Relations Minister Naldei Pandor did this by publishing a notice for the Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act. Extended to all international officers Participation in BRICS related events in South Africa.

A meeting of heads of state and foreign ministers of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is scheduled for August 22 to 24 in several South African cities.

“Special envoys” from countries around the world, notably Middle Eastern powers including Iran and the United Arab Emirates, have also confirmed attendance.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Vladimir Putin at the BRICS meeting in 2021. (courtesy GCIS)

Putin has accepted an invitation Personally peaking.

But the Russian leader’s planned visit has been in doubt since the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March issued a warrant for his arrest for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

South Africa, as a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002, is bound by its own law to detain Putin if he visits its territory.

Obed Bapella, an adviser to the president, recently told The Epoch Times that the African National Congress (ANC) government would “never” arrest Putin, as doing so would be a “declaration of war” on Moscow.

He said the administration led by President Cyril Ramaphosa was working on a “multi-pronged plan” that would allow the Russian president to attend the BRICS summit in person “without fear of arrest”.

Legal analysts said it appeared that granting diplomatic immunity was integral to that plan.

Pandour’s notice states that Putin and his international counterparts will be granted “immunities and privileges” provided under Section 6(1)(a) of South Africa’s Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act.

Pierre de Vos, a law expert at the University of Cape Town, told The Epoch Times that the irony was that the government was using UN law to grant immunity to Putin.

Section 6(1)(a) of the Act establishes that the immunities “are specifically provided for in the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, 1946 … in respect of participation in conferences and meetings.”

Immunities and Privileges in the context of the United Nations Convention provide immunity From “personal arrest or detention” and “legal process of every kind”.

Epoch Times Photo
International flags were raised in front of the United Nations Headquarters on 24 September 2015 before the start of the 70th General Assembly meeting. (Dominic Reuters/AFP via Getty Images)

However, de Vos pointed out that South Africa’s domestic ICC law in its current form declares that “the immunity of the Head of State shall not apply to matters before the ICC.”

Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, told The Epoch Times that the government was “in the process of amending our domestic ICC laws so that they exempt heads of state from arrest on South African soil”.

A senior Department of International Relations official told The Epoch Times that Putin’s “personal presence and input” was considered necessary by Ramaphosa and Pandor, given the “critical importance” of the 2023 BRICS summit.

“They hope that this summit is going to lay the foundation for global change. BRICS is going to be transformed by the addition of new members, especially from the Middle East, and it will become the largest economic bloc in the world, a very powerful organization. Going,” the officer said.

“It is unthinkable that this change would happen without the presence of the leader of the superpower Russia, whatever is happening in Ukraine or elsewhere.”

Although the ANC government claims “non-alignment” in the war in Ukraine, most of the international community regards it as strongly favoring Russia.

ANC ministers and officials, political as well as military, continued to visit the Kremlin, always stating the need for “closer cooperation and friendship” with Moscow.

Russia’s trade ties with South Africa are very small, and are dwarfed by Pretoria’s economic cooperation with the United States and the European Union, Ukraine’s major allies.

But the ANC often emphasizes its strong “emotional” ties to Russia, based on the fact that the former Soviet Union supported its armed struggle against apartheid from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.

Epoch Times Photo
South African National Defense Force soldiers pass by the South African frigate SAS Mendi docked at the port in Richards Bay on February 22, 2023. (Guillem Sartorio/AFP via Getty Images)

Ramaphosa’s government continues to defy the West by allowing Russian ships and aircraft to be barred from its ports and military air bases. The United States has also accused it of illegally supplying arms and ammunition to Russia, which the ANC administration denies.

Several ANC officials close to Ramaphosa told The Epoch Times that the government was convinced there was a “legal loophole” that would allow Putin to attend the BRICS summit in person without violating the ICC Charter.

De Vos said that he was probably referring to Article 98 of the Rome Statute.

“Article 27 states that even the sitting President and Prime Minister and rulers of all kinds are not immune from ICC prosecution by the ICC. But Article 98 can be read as an exception to this general rule Is.”

Article 98(1) reads: “The court may not proceed with a request for surrender or assistance which would require the requested State [in this case South Africa] to act inconsistently with its obligations under international law with respect to the state or diplomatic immunity of a person of a third State…, [in this case Putin and Russia] unless the court first obtains the co-operation of that third state for the waiver of immunity.

De Vos said the ANC appeared to be interpreting this to mean that the ICC could not request Putin’s arrest unless Russia agreed to waive Putin’s immunity from prosecution, which it did. The Kremlin clearly won’t agree.

He said the government’s interpretation of Article 98 would need to be tested in a South African court, and that is exactly where it is going.

The official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has applied to the Pretoria High Court to order the government to arrest Putin, should he set foot in the country, just as the ICC requests South Africa to do so.

Epoch Times Photo
John Steenhusen, South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance contender for the post of federal leader, addresses delegates at the party’s federal congress in Midrand, Johannesburg, April 2, 2023. (Michel Spatari/AFP via Getty Images)

International justice expert at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, Dr Atila Kisla, said the DA’s case had a “good chance” of succeeding, as a judge would likely reach a reasonable conclusion that South Africa’s current ICC laws did not allow the alleged war to take place. forced the state to stop. Criminal.

“The judge can only make a decision based on the letter of the law as it stands now. The government has not yet amended the ICC laws. The DA is taking retroactive action and will not allow any action by the state to let Putin off the hook.” Trying to stop the effort, or it is difficult and inconvenient for the state to do so,” Kisla told The Epoch Times.

In his affidavit to the court, DA leader John Steinhusen writes: “This is clearly a constitutional matter. It involves a breach or potential breach of the rule of law [a foundational value of the Constitution] and separation of powers by the government, which includes South Africa’s breach of international law obligations, which have been given effect domestically by the Implementation Act, which Parliament has bound South Africa to and on which the Supreme Court has previously ruled Appealed and ruled.

In June 2015, a court ruled that the South African government should immediately arrest Omar al-Bashir, the then Sudanese president, who has been accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide related to the conflict in his country’s Darfur region. Imposed.

However, the ANC administration, led by then President Jacob Zuma, defied the court order and allowed al-Bashir to leave the African Union summit and board a plane back to Khartoum.

In the wake of the latest controversy surrounding Putin’s attendance at the BRICS gathering, Pretoria has again slammed the ICC as “unfair” and “selective” in who it decides to prosecute.

ANC leaders are currently debating the implications of withdrawing membership of the Court of South Africa.


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