On Friday, March 17th, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, who is the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the office of the Russian president. The ICC issued the warrant, accusing Putin of being involved in the war crime of the illegal movement of children from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine to Russia.
“Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin 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,” the statement says.
The statement claims the above mentioned war crimes were committed by the commission on February 24th, 2022 until the present day. It goes on to claim that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for having directly committed the crimes alleged. The ICC statement goes on to allege that Putin carried out these criminal acts along with or through others. It further accuses the Russian president of not acting against civilian and military subordinates to prevent the illegal movement of these children across borders.
Russia has indeed transported children from Ukraine to Russia but claims to have done so with the intention of protecting helpless children caught in a conflict zone. However, Ukrainians have repeatedly asserted their children were going missing since the outbreak of the war with Russia.
Russia has refuted the claims, calling them baseless and calling the ICC’s warrant invalid. “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
However, ICC President Piotr Hofmanski rejected that argument. Hofmanksi stated the fact that Ukraine was a signee of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
“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.
The issuing of the arrest warrant was both applauded and condemned by Ukrainians and Russians respectively. “The world received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and henchmen will be held accountable,” said Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin. “This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law.”
James Bays, Al-Jazeera’s diplomatic editor, highlighted how it would affect diplomatic relationships between Putin, Russia, and countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute of the ICC. He questioned how Putin would deal with other countries in various settings, specifically if he would be able to travel and meet United Nations members as he is in all practicality a wanted man.