Will South Africa arrest Vladimir Putin?

Briefly: South Africa’s presidential office has walked back comments by President Ramaphosa, who said the country should leave the International Criminal Court (ICC) after it issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin.

The president’s office said his comments on Tuesday were “erroneous”. But South Africa will have to sort its plans out soon. In August, it’s due to host Russia’s president for a BRICS summit, but South Africa’s ICC membership obliges it to detain Putin and hand him over to The Hague for trial.

Intrigue’s take: This all underscores two big things:

  1. Countries may try to chart a middle course between the West and Russia, but South Africa’s current predicament is a reminder of how often this world can still force us all to make a choice eventually, and
  2. One way or another, it’s unlikely Putin will be nabbed in South Africa. But that won’t mean the ICC has failed. To the contrary, the current uncertainty in Pretoria (and Moscow) is proof the ICC warrant is shaping international behaviour.

Also worth noting:

  • South Africa first considered leaving the ICC in 2015, when the government declined to arrest then Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir while hosting an African Union summit.
  • Even if South Africa decides to leave the ICC, it’ll still be treaty-bound to fulfil its ICC obligations (like arresting Putin) for 12 months.