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Putin - Indicted War Criminal

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. The document states that they may be involved in "war crimes consisting in the illegal deportation of the population (children) and the illegal transfer of the population (children) from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation." The content on the arrest warrants is secret, according to the decision of the chamber.

The court suspects Putin of war crimes, in particular the forcible deportation of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia. There are sufficient grounds to believe that the President of Russia bears personal criminal responsibility for these crimes - directly, together with other persons or through other persons - and also for the fact that he "did not exercise proper control over the civilian and military subordinates who committed these acts or allowed them and which were under his effective authority and control.

The issuance of an arrest warrant for Putin by the International Criminal Court means that the Russian president will no longer be able to enter countries that have ratified the Rome Statute and also recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, lawyer Sergey Golubok, admitted to practice in International Criminal Court. "If Putin visits one of these countries, the local authorities will have to arrest him," Golubok said. These include about 123 states, including all countries of Europe, South America, as well as Tajikistan, South Africa, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

Commenting on the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Head of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev wrote that there was no need to explain where this document should be used, and accompanied the message with a toilet paper icon.

Moscow denies any involvement in war crimes committed in Ukraine following the Russian military attack on the country on February 24, 2022. Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and does not participate in its work. Since 2016, it has not been a party to the Rome Statute, which determines the actions of the court. In turn, the ICC does not recognize the immunity of heads of state in the case of investigation and punishment of war crimes.

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Karim Khan said on 17 March 2023 he had issued an official request to Russia for a meeting with representatives of relevant agencies to discuss the situation in Ukraine. "The work of my Office in relation to the Situation in Ukraine will at all times be carried out in a manner consistent with the founding principles of the Rome Statute," he said in a statement. "We conduct our work with independence, impartiality and integrity. I have underlined that I wish to engage with all parties to the conflict."

"In line with this approach, I have also transmitted a formal request to the Russian Federation to meet their competent authorities and discuss the current situation as it concerns my Office's mandate. It is in my view essential that the Russian Federation actively engages in this investigation and I stand ready to meet with them," he emphasized.

Typically, the issuance of arrest warrants at the ICC is carried out in secrecy to protect victims and witnesses and to avoid complicating the investigation. However, the court emphasized that in this case it was decided to make an exception and disclose the presence of warrants, the names of the suspects and the crimes in connection with which the warrants were issued, given that "the actions referred to in this situation are allegedly ongoing and that informing the public about warrants can help prevent future crimes."

The International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction is carefully articulated in the Rome Statute, is the first permanent international court established on a treaty basis to help end impunity for numerous grave crimes committed in the 21st century. The ICC is an independent international body in relation to the United Nations. The seat of the Court is The Hague, the Netherlands. Although it is financed primarily by the assessed contributions of participating States, it can also accept voluntary contributions from governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

The Court is mandated to try individuals, not States, and hold them accountable for the most serious crimes of international concern: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and, ultimately, the crime of aggression. According to the Statute, crimes against humanity include such crimes as the extermination of civilians, slavery, torture, rape, forced pregnancy, political, racial, national, ethnic, religious or gender persecution, and enforced disappearance of persons, but only as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population. War crimes include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other grave breaches of laws and customs that may apply in international armed conflict, as well as in "armed conflict not of an international character" as they are listed in the Statute, when committed as part of a plan or policy or on a large scale.

All persons will be prosecuted on an equal basis, whether they are heads of state or government, members of governments or parliaments, elected representatives or government officials. Likewise, official position is not grounds for commutation of a sentence. The fact that a crime was committed by a person on the orders of a superior does not, as a rule, exempt that person from criminal liability. A military commander is criminally responsible for crimes committed by military personnel under his command and control. Criminal liability also arises if the military commander knew or should have known that military personnel committed or were about to commit such crimes, but did not take measures to prevent or suppress their commission.

The need for a permanent mechanism for the prosecution of mass murderers and war criminals was first recognized by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, following the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials following the end of the Second World War. In July 1998, in Rome, 120 UN member states adopted the Rome Statute, which became the legal basis for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court. The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002, after 60 states had ratified it.

Ukraine had lodged two applications having recognized the court’s jurisdiction in respect of possible crimes committed on its territory since November 21, 2013. 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. Ukraine has accepted the ICC twice – in 2014 and then in 2015. Forty-three states have referred the situation in Ukraine to the court, which means that 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.

On 28 February 2023, Prosecutor Karin Khan said he planned to expand the investigation to all new possible crimes falling under the ICC jurisdiction that were committed by any party to the conflict. The Kremlin categorically denied Khan’s words about alleged grounds to open a case against Russia in view of the developments in Ukraine.

The press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov, commenting on the possible consideration of cases against the Russian Federation by the ICC, emphasized that Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court.

Russia’s official position regarding the prosecution for violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in international criminal courts changed during the 1990s and the 2000s. The performance of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) had a negative impact on Russia’s position. Russian experts questioned the impartiality of the ICTY and its effectiveness in preventing such crimes and reconciling the parties.

Russia’s position also changed with regard to the International Criminal Court. In 2000, the Russian Federation signed the Rome Statute that established the ICC, but withdrew its signature in November 2016. One of the reasons for that decision was the participation of Russian troops in armed conflicts outside of the Russian Federation and outside of UN peacekeeping missions. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, this court "did not justify the hopes placed on it and did not become a truly independent body of international justice." Russian experts emphasize that IHL norms are enforced primarily at the national level, which means that Russia can make its own decisions regarding criminal prosecution for IHL violations.

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Page last modified: 27-03-2023 18:06:20 ZULU