The government of the Republic of South Africa has backtracked on a decision by the President to quit the International Criminal Court, ICC.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, announced the withdrawal of South Africa from the Hague based court – after it issued an arrest warrant against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over crime against humanity committed in Ukraine.
But on the same day, the office of the president made a U-turn on the announcement saying the country remains a signatory of the treaty that created the ICC.
“The Presidency wishes to clarify that South Africa remains a signatory to the Rome Statute and will continue to campaign for equal and consistent application of international law,” the spokesperson of South African president, Vincent Magwenya said on Tuesday.
Magwenya also said the comments made by the president earlier, was an error.
“This clarification follows an error in a comment made during a media briefing held by the governing African National Congress (ANC) on South Africa’s status with regard to the ICC. Regrettably, the president erroneously affirmed a similar position during a media session today,” Vincent Magwenya added.
The confusion over South Africa’s participation in the court comes amid growing speculation about Putin’s impending visit to South Africa during a high-level BRICS summit in August. The BRICS countries include; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
As a signatory to the ICC, South Africa, which will host the summit would be theoretically bound to enforce the warrant and arrest Putin if he visits the country.
It should be recalled that South Africa failed to arrest and hand to the ICC former Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in 2016 wanted for crimes against humanity.
Mr Bashir who was president of Sudan at the time had visited South Africa for an AU summit meeting with an ICC warrant over his head.
It is uncertain whether Putin will be arrested when he steps foot in South Africa for the BRICS meeting in August this year.
By David Atangana