The Africa Group for Justice and Accountability (AGJA) expresses its concern at reports that the Government of South Africa has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to an upcoming BRICS conference in Pretoria. The Africa Group calls on the government to rescind any such invitation to Mr. Putin, and to clearly and unequivocally commit to detaining and surrendering him to the International Criminal Court (ICC), should he arrive in the country.
Mr. Putin is the subject of a recent arrest warrant issued by the ICC on charges of war crimes. The warrant alleges that Mr. Putin is responsible for the forcible transfer and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia. As an ICC State Party, South Africa has a legal obligation to enforce any arrest warrant issued against Mr. Putin by the Court.
The Africa Group strongly urges the South African Government to refrain from repeating the mistakes made during former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s visit in 2015, at a time when there was an outstanding ICC warrant for his arrest. In 2016, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously decided that the government had breached its obligations under South African law by failing to arrest and detain Mr. al-Bashir for surrender to the ICC. The AGJA would like to remind the South African government that the legal requirement to detain and surrender Mr. Putin arises not only from the country’s international obligations but also from its constitutional obligations.
Victims and survivors of atrocities, be these committed in Ukraine or elsewhere, deserve justice and accountability. As a traditional supporter of the ICC — and indeed one that has recently reiterated its commitment as a member of the Court — South Africa is in a position to lead the way when it comes to justice and accountability for international crimes. The Africa Group would therefore encourage South Africa to do so.
In line with our Kilimanjaro Principles, the Africa Group stands ready to provide expertise and advice on this subject to both the Government of South Africa and all other interested parties.