Brazil’s leader has withdrawn his personal assurance that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be arrested if he attends next year’s Group of 20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, saying it would be up to the judiciary to decide.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also questioned Brazil’s membership in the United Nations war crimes court, saying on Monday that “emerging countries often sign things that are detrimental to them”.
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“I want to know why we are members but not the United States, not Russia, not India, not China,” Lula said.
“I’m not saying I’m going to leave the court. I just want to know why Brazil is a signatory.”
Putin missed this year’s G20 gathering in the Indian capital, New Delhi, avoiding possible criticism over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and any risk of criminal detention under an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant.
The ICC announced the arrest warrant for Putin in March over the Russian president’s suspected involvement in the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
The Kremlin has denied the war crime accusation, insisting the warrant against Putin is “void”.
Russia also issued an arrest warrant in May for Karim Khan, the prosecutor at The Hague-based war crimes court, who also has been added to the “wanted list” of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Brazil is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which led to the founding of the ICC and obliges members to comply with its arrest warrants.
Lula raised eyebrows at the weekend when he told Indian news network Firstpost: “If I’m the president of Brazil and if he [Putin] comes to Brazil, there’s no way that he will be arrested.”
Oliver Stuenkel, a professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo, said the Brazilian president’s comments were “damaging and unnecessary”.
“Rather than projecting himself as the elder statesman, Lula came across as inexperienced and ignorant,” Stuenkel wrote on social media.
Amid the criticism, Lula changed tack on Monday at a press conference in Brazil, telling reporters that he didn’t know if Putin would be detained in the South American nation.
“It’s the judiciary that decides, it’s not the government,” Lula said.
Putin has skipped recent international gatherings and sent his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to New Delhi instead for the September 9-10 G20 meeting, even though India is not an ICC signatory.
On Saturday, the G20 nations adopted a declaration that avoided condemning Moscow for the war in Ukraine but called on all states to refrain from using force to grab territory.
The next summit is slated for November 2024 in Rio de Janeiro and Lula said he hoped “by then the war is over”.