South Africa grants Putin, other leaders immunity for BRICS summit
South Africa says it will provide diplomatic immunity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders attending a summit of the BRICS nations in Johannesburg during the month of August.
The African country said on Tuesday it will extend its Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act to all international officials, who plan to attend the summit of the BRICS block.
BRICS is an acronym for five major developing nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
“This is a standard conferment of immunities that we do for all international conferences and summits held in South Africa, irrespective of the level of participation,” South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs announced.
"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," it added.
The government notice about immunity has prompted speculations that Johannesburg is providing immunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to pave the way for him to attend the summit despite an ICC arrest warrant.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest in March over the alleged war crimes in Ukraine as Moscow has rejected the warrant as "null and void".
South Africa — as an ICC member — may face increased pressures to arrest Putin if he enters the country.
The country's foreign ministry, however, said, "These immunities do not override any warrant that may have been issued by any international tribunal against any attendee of the conference.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that “Russia will take part in this summit at the proper level."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed he will attend the BRICS Foreign Ministers meeting at the end of this week in Cape Town. Lavrov is currently in Kenya.
Russian officials had previously said that Putin had been invited to attend the summit.
The BRICS is a rising competitor to the G7 group of Western industrial countries. The member states’ economies have more than 40% of the world's people and almost a quarter of the world's gross domestic product.