War crimes court issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin
The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for the war crime of deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.
Pre-trial judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague said the Russian president was “allegedly responsible” for the forced transfer of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia during the conflict between the two countries, which has been documented by human rights groups.
The arrest warrant and a second for Russia’s Children’s Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova, also for the deportation of children, are the first issued by the ICC in the Ukraine war.
Human rights groups have said thousands of children have been brought to Russia since Moscow’s massive invasion last year, while Ukraine said on Friday more than 16,000 such incidents were being investigated. The ICC did not specify the number of children unlawfully transferred.
“There is reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the above crimes,” the ICC judges said in a statement on Friday.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan launched an investigation into alleged war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine shortly after the invasion of Moscow began last year. The warrant means Putin could be arrested if he travels to a country that is part of the International Criminal Court.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the arrest warrants “a historic decision from which historic responsibility begins” for war crimes allegedly committed by Russia.
“Separating children from their families, depriving them of any opportunity to contact their relatives, hiding children on the territory of Russia, scattering them to remote regions – all this is an obvious state policy of Russia, state decisions and state Evil,” Zelenskyy said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry downplayed the impact of the arrest warrants. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and has no obligations under it,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “Russia is not cooperating with this body and any arrest ‘prescriptions’ issued by the ICC are legally null and void for us.”
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev echoed her remarks, writing on Twitter that there was “no need to explain WHERE this paper should be used,” adding a toilet paper emoji.
Russia has denied that its forces committed war crimes or atrocities against civilians during the conflict. Instead, Moscow has accused Kiev of staging evidence and blamed Ukrainian soldiers for some atrocities.
Regarding the deportation of children, Lvova-Belova was quoted in the Russian newspaper RBC as saying: “It is great that the international community appreciates our work in helping the children of our country.
“We don’t leave them in the war zone, we bring them out to make sure they’re in good shape, we surround them with loving, caring people.”
ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański said in a video statement: “Under international law, occupying powers are prohibited from relocating civilians from the area where they live to other areas, and children are under special protection.”
“The content of the arrest warrants is classified to protect the victims,” Hofmański added. “Nevertheless, in this case, the judges of the chamber have decided to make public the existence of the arrest warrants in the interest of justice and prevent future crimes from being committed.”
The judges analyzed the evidence and found that “there are credible allegations against these individuals,” he said. But the execution of these arrest warrants “depends on international cooperation,” he added.
Based in The Hague, the ICC was established in 1998 to investigate war crimes and genocide. It has jurisdiction in countries that have signed its founding document, the Rome Statute. Russia is not a signatory, nor are China, India or the US.
Ukraine is also not a member of the International Criminal Court, but has recognized the court’s jurisdiction over events in the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
Thomas Garner, extradition attorney at UK law firm Fladgate, said: “The issuance of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court is symbolic for the international community but is unlikely to result in a prosecution. . . The ICC lacks the teeth to enforce the warrant unless Putin voluntarily submits to its jurisdiction or travels to a state willing to arrest him.”
The ICC does not have its own police force and relies on national authorities to arrest and extradite suspects for whom it has issued arrest warrants. In an arrest, a suspect is taken to the ICC prison in The Hague and a trial begins.
In its three-decade history, the ICC has issued 38 arrest warrants, resulting in 21 arrests. After the trial there were 10 convictions.
https://www.ft.com/content/4e1a51ac-3996-43ab-b70a-483f1b4764a2 War crimes court issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin