Arrest warrant confirmed against President Putin attending the annual BRICS Summit with other bloc state leaders

Associate Max du Plessis acted for South Africa’s leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (‘DA’), in securing a declaratory order from the South African High Court that President Putin would be arrested if he arrives in South Africa to attend the annual BRICS summit to be held there later this month, the bloc’s first ‘in person’ gathering since the coronavirus pandemic.

South Africa invited Putin to the 2023 Summit prior to the International Criminal Court (ICC’s) March directive for his arrest on charges of war crimes for the unlawful transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite being a party to the Rome Statute (legal redress against impunity for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes) and instrumental in building consensus towards establishing the ICC, South Africa had repeatedly refused openly to accept that it would comply with its statutory obligations to arrest and surrender President Putin to the court if he sets foot in the country.

In May 2023, the DA launched an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court seeking declaratory and interdictory relief, with a request for the High Court to confirm South Africa’s obligation to arrest President Putin, and ensure that the necessary steps were taken to domesticate and execute the ICC’s March directive.

International and domestic NGOs joining the action as ‘friends of the court’ (amici curiae) included Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the Southern African Litigation Centre. The matter was ultimately concluded by way of an agreed Court Order, with the South African government agreeing to pay the DA’s costs.

It has since been announced by the South African government that ‘by mutual agreement’ Putin will not himself attend the summit, a development hailed by South African activists as a sign that the country is taking its ICC obligations seriously.

This action has been covered in national and international press including IOL Politics and Le Monde with AFP

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