(Johannesburg) South Africa’s presidency announced on Tuesday that it would not quit the International Criminal Court (ICC), citing a “mistake” in communications from the ruling ANC party over the arrest warrant. against President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.

“The Presidency wishes to clarify that South Africa remains a signatory to the Rome Statute […] This clarification follows an erroneous comment at an ANC press conference,” the Presidency announced in the evening. .

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that the ANC had demanded that the country, criticized since the start of the war in Ukraine for its proximity to Moscow, leave the ICC.

“The ruling party has made up its mind, considering it prudent for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC,” Ramaphosa said at a press conference following a visit by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, after a meeting of the African National Congress (ANC) over the weekend.

The question of whether South Africa will arrest Putin is “under study”, added the head of state. Russian President Vladimir “Putin can come to this country at any time,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said earlier at a press conference. “The ICC does not serve the interests of all, but of the few,” he added.

The Hague-based ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for the war crime of “deporting” Ukrainian children.

However, Pretoria is due to host a Brics summit in August – a group of countries bringing together South Africa, Brazil, China, India and Russia. As a member of the ICC, the country is theoretically supposed to arrest the Russian president if he enters its territory.

South Africa had already wanted to withdraw from the ICC in 2016 after a visit by former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Pretoria had refused to arrest the latter, also subject to an arrest warrant from the Court.

But Pretoria’s withdrawal had been thwarted by the country’s judiciary, which had ruled that such a decision would be unconstitutional.

Even in the event of a withdrawal, South Africa would have been obliged to arrest Vladimir Putin, if he went to the BRICS summit in August, because a withdrawal from the ICC would take more than a year to be effective from the date of the official announcement of his departure.

The procedure involves “a rigorous parliamentary process, we would still be bound by our obligations at the ICC for 12 months after the communication of our withdrawal”, underlined Nicole Fritz, director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, which campaigns for the defense of human rights. the person.

African diplomatic power, South Africa has refused to condemn Moscow since the start of the war in Ukraine, claiming to adopt a neutral position to be able to “play a role in the resolution of conflicts”, Cyril Ramaphosa once again explained , indicating that he spoke with Mr. Putin on several occasions.

The country also hosted naval exercises with Russia and China off its coast in February, sparking “concern” on the international scene.

Ties between South Africa and Russia date back to the apartheid era, with the Kremlin supporting the ANC in the fight against the racist regime.