DIRCO confirms that diplomatic immunity will not apply to Putin and his arrest warrant remains enforceable

Issued by Emma Louise Powell MP – DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation
31 May 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Emma Louise Powell MP.

In clarifying the ambiguity that arose from its notice in the government gazette this week regarding Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges for the upcoming BRICS meeting in Cape Town and BRICS Summit to be held in Johannesburg in August, the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) has now made it clear that any individual who has a warrant against them will not be provided cover under the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act.

DIRCO has essentially confirmed that the arrest warrant issued against the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, remains in force and should he arrive in South Africa, he must indeed be arrested under the auspices of the Rome Statute and handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The DA now calls on DIRCO to follow through on its official statement and notify the Russian government, through its embassy in Pretoria, that the South African government will enforce the arrest warrant, should the Russian President attend the BRICS summit in August.

DIRCO was unambiguous on its position, stating that the formalities of invoking the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act for the BRICS summit in August will “not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference.”

DIRCO’s recognition that the invocation of diplomatic immunity does not override arrest warrants issued by the ICC is consistent with the legal precedent set in 2015 over the Al Bashir matter. When government attempted to justify its failure to arrest the former Sudanese President, citing Bashir’s immunities as head of State, the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal both rejected the government’s reasoning.

Both courts argued that the Government had acted unlawfully when it failed to arrest President Bashir, with the Supreme Court of Appeal finding that the failure was inconsistent with South Africa’s obligations in terms of the Rome Statute and section 10 of the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002 (‘ICC Act’).

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has twice written to the Government to request confirmation that it will abide by its legal obligations in terms of the Rome Statute and the Implementation Act, but it has been ignored. The DA has therefore been left with no choice but to launch Court action, as the Party has now done.