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South African government sanctions arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin if he enters the country

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The Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa has ruled to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, which would require him to be detained in South Africa if he travels there, according to reports by the media outlet Eyewitness News and the opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA).

The court made the decision in response to a request sent by South Africa’s Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to the National Director for Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

The Democratic Alliance said the decision was contrary to the intentions of the country's President Cyril Ramaphosa, and was made possible by pressure from the district attorney.

“Thanks to the DA’s sustained political and legal pressure to ensure compliance with our country’s international obligations, the government on 17 July 2023 formally initiated the process to arrest Vladimir Putin should he set foot on our soil,” said a press release issued by DA leader John Steenhuisen.

In early June, Reuters reported that South Africa was looking for ways not to arrest Putin without violating its obligations to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On July 19, Ramaphosa's office announced that Putin will not attend the BRICS summit, which will be held in South Africa from August 22 to 24. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will go to the event on behalf of Russia in Putin’s place. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that Putin will join the summit via video link.

In March 2023, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Russia’s children's rights ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova. The decision has direct consequences for both defendants, as lawyers have explained to The Insider. Any of the 123 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute – including South Africa – are obliged to arrest either Putin or Lvova-Belova if they cross those countries’ borders.

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