What to know about the ICC arrest warrant against Putin
The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for war crimes against President Vladimir V. Putin and a second Russian official. Here’s a closer look at the court, the warrant, and what it could mean for the Russian leader.
Why did the International Criminal Court issue the warrants?
The court says Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian children since the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia in February last year. The court also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, who was the public face of a Kremlin-sponsored program in which Ukrainian children and teenagers were taken to Russia.
The court said in a statement “there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” .
A New York Times investigation published in October identified several Ukrainian children who had been taken as part of Russia’s systematic resettlement efforts. The children described a harrowing process of coercion, deception and force. Russia has forbidden the transfers on humanitarian grounds.
Lawyers familiar with the ICC case recently said they expected prosecutors to proceed with the arrest warrants because there was a solid trail of public evidence. The court said in a statement on Friday that it was aware “that the conduct targeted in the current situation is allegedly ongoing and that raising public awareness of the warrants can help prevent the commission of further crimes.”
What is the International Criminal Court?
The International Criminal Court was established two decades ago as a permanent body to investigate war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity under a 1998 treaty known as the Rome Statute. Previously, the United Nations Security Council created ad hoc tribunals to deal with atrocities committed in places like the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The court is based in The Hague, a Dutch city that has long been a center of international law and justice.
Many democracies have joined the International Criminal Court, including close US allies like Britain. But the United States has long kept its distance, fearing the court may one day seek to prosecute American officials, and Russia is not one of them either.
The Biden administration is embroiled in an internal dispute over whether to provide the court with evidence gathered by the US intelligence community on Russian war crimes. Most of the administration favors the transfer of evidence, according to people familiar with internal deliberations, but the Pentagon has balked because it doesn’t want to set a precedent that could pave the way for possible lawsuits against the Americans. .
What does the mandate mean for Mr. Putin?
Rights groups have hailed the warrant as an important step towards ending impunity for Russian war crimes in Ukraine, but the likelihood of a trial as long as Mr Putin remains in power seems Thin, because the court cannot try defendants in absentia and Russia has said it will. not hand over its own officials.
The Russian Foreign Ministry quickly rejected the warrants, noting that it was not a party to the court. Yet the arrest warrant for Mr. Putin reinforces his isolation in the West and could limit his travels abroad. If he travels to a state party to the ICC, that country must arrest him, in accordance with its obligations under international law.
“It makes Putin an outcast,” said Stephen Rapp, a former roving ambassador to head the Bureau of Global Criminal Justice at the US State Department. “If he travels, he risks being arrested. It never goes away. And, he said, Russia cannot get sanctions relief without complying with the mandates.
“Either Putin stands trial in The Hague,” Mr Rapp said, or “he is increasingly isolated and dies with this hanging over his head.”
So Putin might never be tried?
The court does not have the power to arrest sitting heads of state or bring them to justice, and must instead rely on other leaders and governments to act as its sheriffs around the world. A suspect who manages to evade capture may never have a hearing to confirm the charges.
However, late last year, a court ruling complicated the matter. In November, the court’s prosecutor sought confirmation of the war crimes and crimes against humanity charges against Joseph Kony, the Ugandan activist and founder of the Lord’s Resistance Army, even though he is not in custody and that he has been on the run for years. Mr. Kony, who turned kidnapped children into soldiers, is accused of murder, cruel treatment, enslavement, rape and attacks on the civilian population.
Mr Khan’s request amounts to a trial balloon, to see if the court will accept that the charges can be confirmed even if someone is not in custody. The decision is pending.