The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants of arrest for the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President, Maria Lvova-Belova. The ICC alleges that both individuals are responsible for committing war crimes, specifically the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
According to the ICC, there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin and Ms. Lvova-Belova bear individual criminal responsibility for their actions, whether directly or through others. The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory from at least 24 February 2022.
The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II considered, based on the Prosecution’s applications of 22 February 2023, that there are 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.
Particularly, it stated that Vladimir Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, for having committed the acts jointly or directly, and for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.
In a press release, the ICC stated that “the warrants are secret in order to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation.” However, they also acknowledged that the public awareness of the warrants “is in the interests of justice.” Furthermore, ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański explained that the decision was made to prevent future crimes:
“It is forbidden by international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in to other territories. Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention. … This is an important moment in the process of justice before the ICC. The judges have reviewed the information and evidence submitted by the prosecutor and determined that there are credible allegations against these persons for the alleged crimes. The ICC is doing its part of work as a court of law. The judges issued arrest warrants. the execution depends on international cooperation.”
Arrest warrant for Putin & Lvova-Belova was made public to prevent further war crimes – ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański
“Deportation of ppl by occupiers from territories where they lived is prohibited by int’l law. Children R under special protection of Geneva Convention” pic.twitter.com/SVZwOIX9bS
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) March 17, 2023
As a result, the court has authorized the disclosure of the suspects’ identities and the crimes they are accused of to the public.
Meaning of the arrest warrant
An arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a legal order that authorizes law enforcement officials to take an individual into custody and bring them before the court to face criminal charges.
When the ICC issues an arrest warrant, it means that the court has found sufficient evidence to believe that the individual named in the warrant has committed a crime within the court’s jurisdiction. The warrant is issued by the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC and is sent to the state or states where the individual is believed to be present, as well as to INTERPOL.
The state where the individual is located is responsible for executing the warrant and transferring the individual to the custody of the ICC. If the individual is arrested, they will be brought before the ICC and will have the opportunity to contest the charges against them. However, only countries party to Rome Statute are obliged to arrest Putin and Lvova-Belova — 123 as of October 2022.
According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, Putin is now likely to avoid traveling outside Russia.
“The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and accomplices will be brought to justice. This is a historic decision for Ukraine and the entire system of international law,” Kostin said.
One more case at ICC expected
It is expected that apart from this case, the ICC will open another case related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: the shelling of civilian targets. The ICC has been probing Russia’s massive missile attack across Ukrainian cities since October 2022,
Ukraine has been documenting these war crimes and is preparing to bring them forward to the ICC.
Russia’s deportation of children
Russia has already deported between 260,000 and nearly 700,000 minors from Ukraine, with the majority being relocated with their legal guardians. Ukraine has already identified 16,000 of these deported children, with approximately 400 children being sent to Russian families in 2022 alone.
Although some responsible parties have already faced EU restrictions for the deportation of Ukrainian children, there is a continued need for further measures to be taken in order to prevent further deportations of Ukrainian children and to ensure the safe and prompt return of those who have already been deported.
It is worth noting that Ukraine has made efforts to repatriate deported children, with two more children having been returned to Ukraine from Russia earlier this month. However, tracing the deportees in immensely difficult.
- Russia abducts Ukrainian children under evacuation and adoption guise
- Russia to face two war crimes charges at the ICC – NYT
- How Ukraine is preparing a Tribunal for Putin
- Russia spends €8 mn to select “quality material” for adoption among Ukrainian children: report
- Ukraine returns home two more children forcibly deported to Russia – Ukraine’s Reintegration Ministry
- Russians transferred 300 Luhansk, Donetsk children to Moscow for “medical treatment”
- EU Commission, Poland launch scheme to trace Ukrainian children abducted by Russia
- “Re-education camps,” age manipulation: activist on Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children
- Russia may have deported “hundreds of thousands” of Ukrainian children – Ukraine’s Ombudsman