A “historic decision”, according to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office. The International Criminal Court, created in 2002 to try the worst crimes committed in the world, declared on Friday that it had issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ICC has been investigating for more than a year into possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed during the Russian offensive which began on February 24, 2022. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC, but Kyiv has accepted the court’s jurisdiction over its territory and is working with the prosecutor. This Friday, while Russia denies the allegations, the court found that the head of the Kremlin was “personally responsible” for the “war crime of illegal deportation of the population (children)”. Explanations.
Where does this international arrest warrant come from?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Friday it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for his responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion. “Today, 17 March 2023, Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for two individuals in connection with the situation in Ukraine: Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Ms. Maria Alekseyevna Lvova -Belova,” presidential commissioner for children’s rights in Russia, the ICC said in a statement.
What war crimes are these?
Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, international organizations have accused the Russian authorities of orchestrating the “forced displacement” of thousands of Ukrainian minors, which President Volodymyr Zelensky called war crimes and crimes against humanity , seeing in it “kidnappings”, “forced adoptions” and “+ re-education +” of Ukrainians. Russia, of course, claims to protect “refugee” children.
The fact remains that, according to the ICC press release, Vladimir Putin is today “presumed responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of population (children) and illegal transfer of population (children) from the occupied areas of Ukraine to the Federation of Russia”. “The crimes were allegedly committed in occupied Ukrainian territory at least from February 24, 2022,” the ICC continued, adding that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin is personally responsible for the aforementioned crimes.”
Why is the arrest warrant issued this Friday?
Monday, the New York Times reported that the ICC was preparing to prosecute Russians for the transfer of children to Russia and for deliberate strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. This is not to mention that ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said earlier this month, after a visit to Ukraine, that the alleged child abductions were “the subject of a priority investigation”.
On Thursday, a group of UN investigators, which also points to possible crimes against humanity, affirmed for its part that the transfer by Russia of Ukrainian children to areas under its control in Ukraine as well as to its own territory constituted a “war crime”. “We will continue these investigations if our mandate is extended” in early April by the Human Rights Council, promised Erik Mose, one of the three commissioners in charge of the investigations, on the occasion of the publication of the first report of the group that he presides.
In a report published on Monday, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a “concerted international effort” to allow the return of these children to Ukraine.
Daria Gerasimchuk, Commissioner for Children of the Ukrainian Presidency, Ukraine, identified 43 centers in Russia hosting minors. According to kyiv, 16,221 children were deported to Russia until the end of February, figures that the UN commission could not verify.
How did Kyiv react?
The Ukrainian Presidency welcomed the issuance of this mandate. “This is only the beginning,” said the head of the presidential administration Andriï Iermak on Telegram. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba reacted on Twitter, welcoming the fact that “the wheel of justice is turning”. “International criminals will be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes,” he added. The Ukrainian prosecutor’s office hailed a “historic decision”. “International leaders will think three times before shaking his hand,” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andrii Kostin said in a statement about Vladimir Putin.
Another official of the Ukrainian presidency, Mykhaïlo Podoliak estimated that with this decision “the world has changed”. “This is the beginning of the end for Russia in its current form on the international stage,” he wrote on Twitter.
How did the Kremlin react?
Russian diplomacy immediately denounced the “meaningless” and “insignificant” decisions of the International Criminal Court. “The decisions of the International Criminal Court are meaningless for our country, including from a legal point of view” because Moscow has no obligation towards it, wrote on Telegram the spokeswoman of the Russian diplomacy Maria Zakharovawithout referring by name to Vladimir Putin in his message.
“Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and has no obligation under it,” said Ms. Zakharova, adding that Moscow “does not cooperate” with the court. The spokeswoman warned that “arrest (warrants) issued by the International Criminal Court will be legally insignificant” for Russia.
For his part, former Russian President Medvedev immediately compared the ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin to toilet paper. “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. No need to explain where this paper should be used,” he wrote on Twitter in English. While Russia denies all war crimes allegations, experts have admitted it is unlikely to hand over any suspects.