South Africa is planning to amend its law to give itself the power to decide whether to arrest a leader wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to Obed Bapela, a deputy minister in the South African presidency.
This announcement comes amid speculation about whether South Africa will stand by its invitation for Russian President Putin to visit in August. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Putin over the Ukraine war.
Currently, South Africa is obligated to arrest Putin as a member of the ICC. However, South Africa wants to remain neutral on the issue and has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The proposed law would allow South Africa to grant exemptions on who to arrest and who not to arrest.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has filed a court application to compel the authorities to arrest Putin if he arrives in August. South Africa is also writing to the ICC about a waiver under article 98 of the Rome Statute, which suggests that South Africa would not be obligated to arrest Putin unless Russia agrees to waive his immunity from prosecution.
Mr. Bapela criticized the ICC for its “double standards” and mentioned past examples of exemptions from international justice, such as the UK’s decision not to extradite former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in 1998.