Jue. Mar 30th, 2023

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday. The Court accuses him of being «allegedly responsible» for the illegal deportation of children and their transfer from occupied areas in the Ukraine to Russia, which is a war crime.

The Court also issued an arrest warrant for the same reason against Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia.

Both arrest warrants are the first of their kind issued by the ICC in the framework of its investigation, for more than a year, of possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine and the Russian offensive.

According to the ICC, Putin is «allegedly responsible» for the illegal deportation of children.


Mikhail Metzel / SPUTNIK / AFP

What is Putin accused of?

The government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spent months accusing Moscow of kidnapping children, forcibly bringing them to Russia and training them to become Russian citizens.

Thus, as the ICC excludes in its statement, Putin is «allegedly responsible for the war crime of illegal deportation of the population (of children) and the illegal transfer of population (of children) from the occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation».

«The crimes would have been committed in occupied Ukrainian at least since February 24, 2022,» the court continued.

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Putin’s individual responsibility, as head of state and superior officer, could mean either «having committed the acts directly, together with others or through others», or by “failing to exercise adequate control over their civilian or military subordinates who committed the acts or allowed their commission and were under its control and effective authority”, as explained in article 28 of the founding treaty of the ICC.

As regards Lvova-Belova (1984), the ICC considers that he has «individual criminal responsibility» for the same type of war crime after «having committed the acts directly, together with others and/or through others» since the February 24 of last year, the date on which the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

On February 16, during a meeting in the Kremlin, Lvova-Belova told Putin that she «adopted» a child from Mariupol, a Ukrainian city that was besieged by Russian troops for months, until its fall in the spring of 2022.

Last October the official also admitted that some 350 Ukrainian orphans had been taken in by Russian families.

The ICC is also reportedly investigating the deliberate bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.

The American newspaper New York Times had already announced on Monday that the court opened two cases against Russian officials for actions committed in Ukraine. According to the newspaper, the first case to be dealt with was the alleged kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Moscow.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan declared this month after a visit to Ukraine that the alleged child abductions were the subject of «priority investigation».

«Children cannot be treated as spoils of war,» he declared.

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Khan stressed that when he visited a childcare center in southern Ukraine, it was «empty, following the alleged deportation of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation» or to other areas occupied by Moscow.

The second would be related to the deliberate bombardment of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, such as power plants and water supply.

But what powers does the ICC have? Can Putin really be stopped?

What powers does the CPI have?

The International Criminal Court is a body created in 2002 with the intention of judging those responsible for the worst crimes: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC is based in The Hague, the Netherlands, and -according to Amnesty International (AI)- «was established at the initiative of the United Nations on July 17, 1998, when a hundred and a half countries adopted its founding treaty. It entered into into force on July 1, 2002 after ratification by 60 countries».

According to AI, 124 countries are part of the CPI by having ratified the Rome Statute. However, another 60 countries have not done so, including the United States, Russia or China.

According to the Statute, the Court has the power to judge war crimes such as killing intentionally, subjecting to torture, destroying property, taking hostages, «submitting to illegal deportation, transfer or confinement» -as in the case of which Putin is accused-, among many other crimes.

(You can read: Ukraine: Fighting for control of the Bakhmut center intensifies)

Karim Khan, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Why is an arrest warrant issued?

According to the Statute of the Court, once the preliminary investigations have been initiated, an arrest warrant may be issued against a person if it is considered that «there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed a crime within the jurisdiction of the ICC».

An arrest warrant is also issued if it is deemed necessary for the accused person to stand trial, to prevent him from obstructing the Court’s investigation, or to prevent the accused from continuing to commit the war crime or crime against humanity of which it is alleged. points to him.

(Keep reading: The dark side of neutrality / Analysis by Slavoj Žižek)

Regarding the arrest process, the Court indicates that the Member State that receives the arrest warrant is the one that must take the measures to immediately take the accused in accordance with its internal regulations.

«Once the State of detention has ordered the surrender, the detainee will be made available to the Court as soon as possible,» the Statute states.

In this case, it is the first time in history that the CPI has issued an arrest warrant against the president of a country that is a member of the UN Security Council.

It is the first time in history that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against the president of a country that is a member of the UN Security Council.


EFE/EPA/Sergey Fadeichev/Kremlin/Pool

Can Putin be stopped?

It is very unlikely, or almost impossible. Firstly, Russia has not ratified the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the ICC, so it is not a member of this court, nor is Ukraine. However, kyiv has authorized the Court to investigate the commission of war crimes during the Russian invasion.

«Russia created the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, in 2000, but never ratified the agreement to become a member. It formally withheld its signature on the founding ICC statute in 2016, a day after the court released a report that classified the Russian annexation of Crimea as an occupation», recalls the British daily The Guardian.

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International law experts say unlikely, barring a major political change in Russia.

That’s how it is, says the newspaper The countrythe only way Putin could be arrested and brought before court in The Hague is if he travels abroad and is captured in a country that is a member of the ICC.

In fact, this Friday, the court did not specify how to intend to execute the arrest warrants and the truth is that the ICC does not have the operational capacity to carry out an arrest of this nature, much more if one takes into account that Russia is one of the great military powers in the world and, furthermore, it is part of the UN Security Council, where it has the power of veto for any decision.

In his analysis, the Washington Post He talks about the fact that the arrest warrants have symbolic weight and that, in any case, they could make it difficult for Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova to travel to other countries that do cooperate with the ICC and where they could be captured.

«Experts in international law say that it is unlikely, barring a major political change in Russia, that Putin will end up in court,» says the quoted media.

For now, the case will be paralyzed until those arrested are in The Hague prison and can attend the sessions, listen to suspicions and defend themselves.

Russia has already reacted by stating that the order is meaningless. «The decisions of the International Criminal Court are very meaningless for our country, including from a legal point of view,» the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova, wrote on Telegram.

«Possible arrest ‘prescriptions’ issued by the International Tribunal will be legally null and void for us,» he added.

Along the same lines, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov called the order «outrageous» and «inadmissible.» «Russia, like other countries, does not recognize the jurisdiction of that court, so any such decision is insignificant for Russia from the point of view of law,» he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

Zelensky has spent months blaming Russia for the kidnapping and deportation of Ukrainian minors.

What sentences can the IPC issue?

According to the International Criminal Court and its statute, if a person is found guilty they can receive a prison sentence not exceeding 30 years or life imprisonment if the seriousness of the crime justifies it.

There is also talk of fines or confiscation of goods or products that come from the crime committed and judged.


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