(Johannesburg) South Africa’s ruling ANC has demanded that the country, criticized since the start of the war in Ukraine for its proximity to Moscow, leave the International Criminal Court (ICC), President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.

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

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.

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

Whether South Africa will arrest Putin is “under consideration”, the head of state added.

“Putin can come to this country at any time,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula told a press conference earlier. “The ICC does not serve the interests of all, but of the few,” he added.

According to Ramaphosa, the ANC’s decision to withdraw from the ICC was made “largely” due to what is perceived as unfair treatment of certain countries by the court.

“We would like this issue of unfair treatment to be properly discussed, but in the meantime, the ruling party has once again decided that it should stand down,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

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.

Either way, South Africa would be forced to arrest Vladimir Putin if he goes to the BRICS summit in August, because an ICC withdrawal 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.