Mar 25, 2023 - World

Hungary would not arrest Putin despite ICC warrant, official says

Photo of Vladimir Putin sitting and looking straight ahead

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting in Moscow on March 24, 2023. Photo: Aleksey Babushkin/Sputnik/AFP) (Photo by ALEKSEY BABUSHKIN/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

A Hungarian official has said that the country would not arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he entered Hungary, despite the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for alleged war crimes.

What they're saying: Gergely Gulyas, Orbán's chief of staff, called the warrant counterproductive at a news conference in Budapest this week, per Reuters. It pushed "things toward further escalation and not toward peace, this is my personal subjective opinion," he said.

  • Arresting Putin would also go against Hungarian law since Hungary has not widely incorporated the ICC's statute into its legal system, he added.
  • "We can refer to the Hungarian law and, based on that, we cannot arrest the Russian president ... as the ICC’s statute has not been promulgated in Hungary."

Why it matters: Putin is unlikely to face a trial from the warrant — the Russian government does not recognize the ICC — but it could limit his ability to travel to the ICC's 123 member nations, which are obligated to follow through with an arrest under their treaty with the court.

  • Hungary is one of these 123 member states. Its government has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and accepted EU sanctions on Russia but declined to allow the transport of weapons across Hungarian territory or sanction Russian energy.
  • Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's close ties with Putin have also come under scrutiny. The Hungarian government has not publicly taken a stance on the warrant.

The big picture: Orbán has repeatedly criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and referred to him as an opponent the Hungarian people "had to fight against" after he was re-elected last April.

  • But the ICC statute is clear that member states are expected to "immediately take steps" to make an arrest if requested.
  • South Africa is another member nation that has pushed back against the warrant. Naledi Pandor, minister of international relations, told South African Broadcasting Corp. that South Africa is aware of its legal obligation but is considering extending an invite to Putin to an August summit in Johannesburg.

Worth noting: Neither the U.S. nor China is an ICC member state.

  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Putin in Moscow earlier this week and invited the Russian president to Beijing later this year.

Go deeper... UN: Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine

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