Will the International Criminal Court arrest Putin?
Judges of the International Criminal Court have issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova. What does this mean and what are the consequences?
It is important to understand and consider the qualification of the crimes. The charges relate to the illegal deportation and illegal transfer of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. The crimes were committed in the occupied territories of Ukraine, at least from February 24, 2022. The deportation of children is classified as a war crime.
Such qualification does not preclude the fact that, with additional evidence, the actions may be classified as crimes against humanity or genocide. However, the threshold of proof is much higher for these most serious international crimes.
The ICC has jurisdiction over individuals who bear criminal responsibility for the most serious crimes that cause concern to the international community: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression.
And it is the Prosecutor who can file a request for an arrest warrant with the Pre-Trial Chamber based on the investigation results, which oversees the investigation of the situation. To issue a warrant, judges must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect has committed an international crime.
Vladimir Putin is responsible not only for the crimes he has directly committed, but also for the actions of his subordinates whom he controlled.
Maria Lvova-Belova, as an authorized representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the rights of the child, directly implements the policy of the Russian Federation regarding the deportation of Ukrainian children and their adoption on the territory of Russia.
Arrest warrants mean that Putin and Lvova-Belova can be arrested in all countries that have ratified the Rome Statute (and there are 123 such countries) and cooperate with the ICC.
By the way, even some countries that are not parties to the Rome Statute have agreed to cooperate with the ICC, including Ukraine, which has repeatedly stated that it supports the ICC and is ready to assist in the investigation.
The consequences of the arrest of Putin and Lvova-Belova will depend on many factors, including the willingness of individual countries to enforce the arrest warrants, the political situation, and the international reaction.
The issue of child deportation and international crimes are always sensitive. According to Ukraine’s official data, 16,226 children have been deported. And this is only for the last year.
The real figures are likely much higher. Among these children are those who are socially vulnerable, deprived of parental care, and orphans.
Russian officials, in particular, Lvova-Belova, openly share information on social media about Russians adopting Ukrainian children. In other words, the Russians themselves film and document the deportation of Ukrainian children, creating additional evidence.
This decision is truly important. And considering the scale and complexity of international crimes, the result is indeed fast, which gives reason for some optimism. After all, the investigation was opened on March 3, 2022. And in fact, within a year, we already have two orders. And even for high-ranking officials.
Focusing efforts on specific cases where guilt can be proven is the right strategy. The decision against top officials is a strong message for the international community and a potential strengthening of the ICC’s role.
Russian aggression and the enormous scale of crimes have become a kind of test and opportunity for the ICC to prove its ability. And, judging by everything, the Court understands this.
However, the decision only concerns crimes that occurred after the full-scale Russian aggression. At the same time, facts of children’s deportation from Crimea and Donbas were recorded earlier, since 2014. In particular, in 2014, about 4,300 children deprived of parental care and orphans lived in Crimea.
Imposing Russian citizenship on them, adoption by Russian families, and deportation are not isolated cases. And relevant proceedings were registered by the Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea. Therefore, in my opinion, the ICC should investigate the facts from 2014, not just from 2022.
The issuance of orders was made possible, in particular, thanks to the efforts of a number of Ukrainian non-governmental organizations that have long been involved in the issue of child deportation and draw attention to the importance of this category of crimes.
Among such organizations are the International Renaissance Foundation, the Right to Protection Foundation, and others.
Among such organizations are members of the “Ukraine.5 am” Coalition. In particular, the Regional Center for Human Rights. And, for example, the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group (ULAG), which investigates the problem and represents the interests of victims in cases related to the illegal transfer and deportation of children, including through the mechanism of universal jurisdiction.
ULAG human rights activists also cooperate with law enforcement agencies and the Department of Protection of the Interests of Children and Combating Violence of the Office of the Prosecutor General in order to develop a clear strategy for investigating the facts of child displacement and punishing the perpetrators.