The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says the diplomatic immunity granted to BRICS attendees does not override any warrant issued by any international tribunal.
On Monday, Dirco issued a notice in the government gazette on immunities and privileges for BRICS foreign minister who will be attending a meeting in Cape Town in June and the Summit in August.
Diplomatic immunity is a status granted to a diplomat that exempts them from the laws of a foreign jurisdiction.
The move by the international relations department come as calls mount for the South African government to arrest Russian President, Vladimir Putin, should he set foot in the country.
In March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest for Putin for his alleged involvement in war crimes in Ukraine the for the unlawful deportation of children.
South Africa, which is a signatory of the Rome Statute, is obliged to arrest Putin should he come to the country.
Dirco Spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, says this is a standard conferment of immunities that all countries do for international conferences and summits held.
“The immunities are for the conference and not for specific individuals. They are meant to protect the conference and its attendees from the jurisdiction of the host country for the duration of the conference,” explains Monyela.
The DA on arresting Putin
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has since launched a court application in the Gauteng Division of the High Court, requesting a declaratory order in a bid to have Putin handcuffed should he come to South Africa.
The DA’s Shadow Minister for Justice, Glynnis Breytenbach, says they want to avoid a repeat of the Al-Bashir saga when the government failed to uphold its duty to arrest him in 2015.
The ICC wanted to prosecute the former Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir, for alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
“The DA is seeking this declaratory order to ensure that there is no legal ambiguity relating to the procedure to be followed, and the obligations placed upon the state, should President Putin set foot in South Africa,” said Breytenbach.
SANDF on arresting Putin
Meanwhile, the South African Defence Force (SANDF) has revealed that it does not have the power to arrest Putin.
SANDF Chief, Rhudzani Maphwanya, says the ability to effect the warrant by the ICC lies with the police and justice ministers, Bheki Cele and Ronald Lamola, respectively.
Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza