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Brazil view on immunity for heads of state could favor Putin at G20 summit


By Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil is advocating for the immunity of heads of states that are not party to treaties such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), according to a document seen by Reuters, which could favor Russian President Vladimir Putin attending the Group of 20 summit in Rio this year.

The ICC has been debating the immunity of heads of state since 2007, and it is unclear whether any decision can be reached before Brazil hosts the summit of leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies in November.

But the argument could allow the Brazilian government to ignore an arrest warrant issued last year against Putin by the ICC in The Hague, to which Brazil is party, based on war crimes charges related to the abduction of Ukrainian children.

Brazil’s leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said last September at a G20 meeting in New Delhi that Putin would not be arrested if he attended the Rio summit. But he rowed back on that statement in the face of widespread criticism, saying it was up to the Brazilian courts and not his government.

Russia was a signatory to the ICC, but left the treaty in 2016, after the court’s actions against the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russia has said the ICC charges against Putin are absurd and groundless.

Putin has rarely travelled abroad since the ICC sought his arrest, skipping a summit of the BRICS group of major emerging economies in South Africa last year and the G20 summit in India.

The Brazilian position on the matter was presented in November to the International Law Commission in Geneva and first reported by newspaper Folha de S. Paulo on Monday.

Brazil maintains that the immunity of heads of state is essential to promote peaceful relations between states by allowing them to participate in diplomatic conferences and missions in foreign countries.

“The immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction is crucial to ensure the adequate performance of their functions,” the document said. Immunity prevents the arbitrary use of criminal jurisdictions against such officials.

The rulings of the ICC should only be applied to countries that are party to the Treaty of Rome, Brazil argued in the document, which did not mention Putin or the G20 summit.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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