By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungary says it won’t arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he enters the country despite the International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for alleged war crimes, including forced deportations of Ukrainian children.
Gergely Gulyas, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff, called the warrant counterproductive at a news conference in Budapest. 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 claimed.
“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.”
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.
Any member, including Hungary, is, in principle, obligated to follow through with an arrest under their treaty with the court. Under ICC rules, member states are expected to “immediately take steps” to arrest if requested.
Hungary is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, which says: “The responsibility to enforce warrants of arrest issued by an ICC Chamber remains with States. States Parties to the Rome Statute have a legal obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC.”
Yet rightwing Prime Minister Orbán, who faced Western criticism over his perceived authoritarian style, has close ties with Putin, and Hungary heavily depends on energy from Russia.
Only under pressure, the government condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and accepted most but not all proposed European Union sanctions on Russia.
Though a member of the EU and NATO military alliance, Hungary refused to join fellow EU members in embargoing Russian oil imports after the war began.
Hungary also declined to allow the transport of weapons across Hungarian territory, but a U.S. security official told Worthy News that “unofficially military cooperation” continues.
And pro-Russian Hungary, along with Turkey’s government, slowed down the process of adding Finland and Sweden to NATO.
In an interview, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said his country didn’t vote to allow them to join NATO as Hungarian lawmakers are furious about the Nordic nations’ critiques of Hungarian domestic affairs.
He recalled that Finland and Sweden had concerns about Hungary’s democratic credentials and the rule of law situation.
The EU withheld billions of euros in funding to Hungary amid outrage over corruption and a crackdown on previously independent institutions ranging from media to the judiciary.
Additionally, Orbán criticized Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying he is an opponent the Hungarian people “had to fight against” after he was re-elected last April.
The Hungarian prime minister is worried about legislation that he claims limits the language, religious, and other cultural rights of minorities, including the roughly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine.
And Budapest expressed concerns about reports that ethnic Hungarians, many of whom have double citizenship, were drafted into the Ukrainian army to fight against Russian forces, with some being killed or wounded.
Besides Hungary, further away, South Africa is reluctant to carry out the ICC warrant against Putin. Naledi Pandor, minister of international relations, told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that South Africa might invite the Russian leader to an August summit in Johannesburg.
Yet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged European Union countries and others to enforce the ICC warrant and detain Putin and turn the Russian leader over to the court if he visits.
Critics may argue those comments seem hypocritical as neither the United States nor China is an ICC member state. Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Putin in Moscow last week and invited the Russian president to Beijing later this year. Since launching the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin has limited his travel to countries friendly to Moscow.
Putin is unlikely to stand trial before the ICC, given the court does not try people in absentia, though commentators say it may increase pressure in Russia to overthrow the president.
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