Arrest Warrant for Vladimir Putin Issued by ICC Judges on Charges of War Crimes

Image Source: Anadolu Agency

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children's rights commissioner, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for the "unlawful deportation" of Ukrainian children. The court's pre-trial judges found "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 judges considered issuing secret warrants, but they decided that making them public could "contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes". Despite this decision, Moscow has said it does not recognise the ICC's jurisdiction, and foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel that "The decisions of the international criminal court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view…Russia is not a party to the Rome statute of the international criminal court and bears no obligations under it."

However, Ukraine's presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, welcomed the news and suggested that it was just the beginning. Kyiv-based international human rights lawyer, Wayne Jordash, believes that the warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova were likely to be the first of many, with the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, having begun war crimes investigations in Ukraine over a year ago. Jordash said, "More will come over the next few months. This has got to be a sort of warning shot across the bow. This is the prosecutor just getting something in the docket."

The Russian leadership has been open about its actions, taking Ukrainian children to Russia and placing them in camps or putting them up for adoption by Russian families. On 16 February, Lvova-Belova appeared on television, telling Putin about the programme and revealing that she herself had "adopted" a 15-year-old child from Mariupol, the south-eastern Ukrainian city that was devastated and occupied by Russian forces. The televised conversation may have been a factor in Khan's decision to issue his first requests for arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova.

"There's a clear case here against Putin," said Jordash. "So I think it's good to see the prosecutor focusing on children's rights. I think this is what international prosecutors have failed to do over the last 20 years, so this is a good focus, as it's one of the worst crimes being committed." Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said that "with these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia's war against Ukraine for far too long…The court's warrants are a wakeup call to others committing abuses or covering them up that their day in court may be coming, regardless of their rank or position."