The leader of South Africa’s major opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), John Steenhuisen, has urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to arrest Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, if he sets foot in the country.
Recently, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest against Putin for alleged war crimes in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
With South Africa being a signatory to the Rome Statute, Mr Steenhuisen reveals the country has a legal duty to cooperate with the ICC and arrest President Putin when he lands in South Africa.
Steenhuisen said: “I think that any responsible president would advise Putin, given the ICC arrest warrant that he should perhaps not come.
“But if he does come, I think South Africa is obliged — if it’s for the rule of law and (if you) govern according to the constitutional principles — you would be obliged to execute that arrest warrant.
“If he is here, we have a legal obligation. The principle of the rule of law means equality before the law, and South Africa is obliged to execute that. We have not left the ICC. We’ve remained signatories. Putin must be arrested.”
Putin is scheduled to attend the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in South Africa in August, as confirmed by the International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor.
However, the South African International Relations Department and President Ramaphosa is awaiting legal advice on handling Putin’s trip to South Africa.
The DA also urged the South African leader to prioritize the reputation of the country by arresting Putin or ensuring he is not among the leaders that will attend the BRICS summit.
In a statement, the DA said: “The country simply cannot afford another hit to our reputation. The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey listing due to the failure to effectively combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism has already caused the rest of the world to view South Africa’s global transactions as high-risk.
“And the failure to arrest former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2015 certainly indicates that despite its many utterances to the contrary, the ANC government does not prioritize human rights.
“The ICC’s issuing of a warrant for Putin’s arrest for alleged war crimes should serve as a final warning to the ANC that while the governing party might make light of the invasion of a neighbouring country, the international community does not.
“If President Ramaphosa insists on placing his friendship with a wanted war criminal over the well-being of his people, we call on him to ensure the meeting takes place on neutral ground and that peace and Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine be prioritized.
“South Africa is already seen as weak, inactive and rudderless – we do not need to add sympathizer of war criminals to the list.”
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