South Africa’s ruling ANC has called for the country, which has been criticized since the start of the war in Ukraine for its closeness to Moscow, to leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday.
The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant in March for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of “deporting” Ukrainian children.
Pretoria is due to host a summit of the BRICS – a group of countries including South Africa, Brazil, China, India, and Russia – in August. As a member of the ICC, the country is theoretically supposed to arrest the Russian president if he enters its territory.
“The ruling party has decided that it is prudent for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC,” Ramaphosa said at a press conference following a visit by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. The African National Congress (ANC) met over the weekend.
Whether South Africa will stop Putin is “under consideration,” the head of state added.
“Putin can come to this country at any time,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said earlier at a press conference. “The ICC does not serve the interests of all, but those of a few,” he added.
Ramaphosa said the ANC’s decision to withdraw from the ICC was made “largely” because of the perceived unfair treatment of some countries by the court.
“We would like to see this issue of unfair treatment properly discussed, but in the meantime, the ruling party has decided once again that we should withdraw,” Ramaphosa said.
South Africa had previously sought to withdraw from the ICC in 2016 after a visit by former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Pretoria had refused to arrest the latter, who was also the subject of an arrest warrant from the court.
But Pretoria’s withdrawal was thwarted by the country’s judiciary, which ruled that such a decision would be unconstitutional.
African diplomatic power, South Africa refuses to condemn Moscow since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, claiming to adopt a neutral position to be able to “play a role in the resolution of conflicts”, explained once again Cyril Ramaphosa, indicating to have met several times with Mr. Putin.
The country also hosted naval exercises with Russia and China off its coast in February, causing “concern” on the international scene.
South Africa’s ties with Russia date back to the apartheid era, with the Kremlin supporting the ANC in its fight against the racist regime.