An arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
The ICC based in The Hague, Netherlands, whcih has no powers to enforce its own warrants, in a statement on Friday the warrants of arrest for two individuals “in the context of the situation in Ukraine.”
The two individuals mentioned are Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the President of Russia and Ms Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights for the Russian Federation.
The ICC alleged that Putin and Lvova-Belova engaged in the “unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
Russia Today reported that thousands of residents of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zaporozhye, and Kherson – four regions that overwhelmingly voted to join Russia last September – have been evacuated to the interior of Russia due the deliberate shelling of civilians by Ukrainian forces, often using NATO-supplied weapons.
The Hague-based tribunal is not recognized by Moscow, and the move has no legal validity in Russia. The US also does not recognize the body, which has been accused of being Eurocentric and biased towards the West.
The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately dismissed the announcement. “The decisions of the International Criminal Court do not matter to our country, including from a legal point of view,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
We consider the very premise outrageous and unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Russia, like many other states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. Accordingly, any of its pronouncements are null and void to the Russian Federation from the legal standpoint.”
The ICC President Piotr Hofmanski, however told Al Jazeera it was “completely irrelevant” that Russia had not ratified the Rome Statute.
“According to the ICC statute, which has 123 state parties, two-thirds of the whole international community, the court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of a state party or a state which has accepted its jurisdiction,” he said. “Ukraine has accepted the ICC twice – in 2014 and then in 2015.”
Hofmanski said 43 states had referred “the situation in Ukraine to the court, which means they have formally triggered our jurisdiction”.
“The court has jurisdiction over crimes committed on anyone on the territory of Ukraine from November 2013 onwards regardless of nationality of the alleged perpetrators,” Hofmanski said.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin hailed the announcement by the ICC.
“The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” he said. “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”
Neither is the US, which has championed Ukraine’s claims of Russian “war crimes.” The US Congress adopted a law in 2002 prohibiting any Americans from cooperating with the ICC, or extradition of US citizens for trial there. The American Service-Members’ Protection Act (also known as The Hague Invasion Act), also authorized “all means necessary and appropriate” to release any detained Americans – or their allies – from the Hague.
The ICC was modeled after the ad-hoc tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which relied on NATO countries to fund its investigations and trials, and enforce its warrants and verdicts.
The full ICC Statement:
Mr Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, born on 7 October 1952, President of the Russian Federation, is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute). The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, (i) for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute), and (ii) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control, pursuant to superior responsibility (article 28(b) of the Rome Statute).
Ms Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, born on 25 October 1984, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute). The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Ms Lvova-Belova bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute).
Pre-Trial Chamber II considered, based on the Prosecution’s applications of 22 February 2023, that there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.
The Chamber considered that the warrants are secret in order to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation. Nevertheless, mindful that the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing, and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes, the Chamber considered that it is in the interests of justice to authorise the Registry to publicly disclose the existence of the warrants, the name of the suspects, the crimes for which the warrants are issued, and the modes of liability as established by the Chamber.
The abovementioned warrants of arrests were issued pursuant to the applications submitted by the Prosecution on 22 February 2023.
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur