To avoid having to hand Vladimir Putin over to the ICC, South Africa could ask China or India to host the next BRICS summit instead.
The BRICS meeting, held in Cape Town, South Africa, brought together diplomats from the five member countries. In addition to the host country, members of the Brazilian, Russian, Indian and Chinese delegations therefore rehearsed the summit to be held next August in South Africa.
But the latter may eventually be relocated. The reason ? Vladimir Putin, a real thorn in the side of the South African president. Cyril Ramaphosa wants to keep his country's legendary policy of non-alignment. Except that Russian President Putin is now under an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). As a signatory to the Rome Statute, South Africa is obliged to hand over the head of state if he sets foot on South African lands.
Except that, since this arrest warrant was issued, the authorities of the African country are trying to find the legal loophole which would avoid provoking a diplomatic imbroglio with Moscow. South African law, in particular, promises diplomatic immunity to the Russian president.
Brazil in the same situation as South Africa
Problem: if the law were on the side of South Africa, the country would, in any case, cause the ICC with which it already has a checkered history. The South African position is difficult: how to agree to submit to the desiderata of the ICC, a Western jurisdiction, while the BRICS have the ambition to be an alternative to the world order directed by this same West.
Ramaphosa knows he will find it difficult to get out of the mess he is in, whereas at the time of Putin's invitation, the latter was not yet the subject of an arrest warrant from the ICC. In April, the South African president had also said aloud what he thought of the arrest warrant, deploring that he was being put "a spoke in the wheel".
Moreover, in Cape Town, the Russian diplomats participating in the BRICS meeting had obtained from the South African government the assurance of having immunity. South Africa could therefore easily do the same for Putin.
But Ramaphosa would have another idea in mind. The South African president is said to be sounding out his BRICS partners for one of them to host the August summit. And necessarily, this country should not be part of the States Parties to the Rome Statute. Which de facto excludes Brazil. That leaves China and India.
Whichever country is chosen to host the August summit, South Africa's decision shows that it is difficult to position itself on the Russian side in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, while maintaining its line of conduct against all odds.