South Africa Grants Putin Diplomatic Immunity to Attend Brics Summit

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa meeting with President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (file photo).
30 May 2023

Cape Town — South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Minister Naledi Pandor gazetted a notice providing diplomatic immunity to officials attending the the BRICS summit in August. The decision bears significance as it comes in the wake of an international warrant of arrest issued by the International Criminal Court  for President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes perpetrated by Russia in its ongoing war with Ukraine.

As a signatory to the Rome Statute, the South African government has a legal obligation to arrest the Russian upon his arrival under the country. However, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said immunity was granted for both the BRICS ministerial meeting and the BRICS summit, due to be held in June and August.

The gazette reads: In accordance with section 6(1)(a) of the said Act, the immunities and privileges to be accorded to the participants of the BRICS Ministerial Meeting and the BRICS Summit for the duration of both meetings are those provided for in the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and the 1947 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of Specialised Agencies, as may be applicable and for their effective participation in the Ministerial Meeting and the Summit."

Putin's relationship with the South Africa presented a bureaucratic headache with regard to international relations. In February, joint military drills between South Africa, Russia and China brought criticism from local opposition parties.

Putin also considered remote attendance for the BRICS summit before Dirco's latest decision granting diplomatic immunity.

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