EXPLAINED ICC Arrest Warrant Against Putin And What It Means For Russia President

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague Friday issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who faces charges of war crime as he is accused of being responsible for illegal deportation of children from Ukraine, which is under Russian invasion. An arrest warrant has also been issued against Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights.

Here is a look at the accusations and other details of the arrest warrants against Putin and Lvova-Belova.

What Are The Charges Against Putin And Lvova-Belova?

In what has been termed as war crimes, Putin and Lvova-Belova are accused of the responsibility for unlawful deportation and transfer of people, especially children, to the Russian Federation from the occupied areas of Ukraine.

“On the basis of evidence collected and analysed…there are reasonable grounds to believe that President Putin and Ms Lvova-Belova bear criminal responsibility for the unlawful deportation and transfer of Ukrainian children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, contrary to article 8(2)(a)(vii) and article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute,” reads the statement issued by Prosecutor Karim AA Khan KC on the issuance of the arrest warrants.

According to the statement posted on the ICC website, Khan submitted applications to Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court on February 22 seeking the arrest warrants over the situation in Ukraine. 

After the Pre-Trial Chamber issued the warrants Friday, the ICC said the crimes were allegedly committed in occupied territory of Ukraine at least from February 24, 2022, the start of the Russian invasion, and that Putin failed to “exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control, pursuant to superior responsibility (article 28(b) of the Rome Statute)”.

The international court also said it saw “reasonable grounds” to believe Lvova-Belova bore “individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others…”.

Adopted in 1998 and in force since 2002, the Rome Statute of the ICC is the treaty that established the court.

According to reports, Russia had initially signed the Rome Statute in 2000 but never ratified and did not become a member of the ICC. It withdrew its signature in 2016.

What Do The Arrest Warrants Mean For Putin?

While Ukraine welcomed the move, Russia was quick to dismiss the warrants, calling them “toilet paper”. Moscow does not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC and hence it is highly unlikely that Putin would face trial at the ICC, even as ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement that it will be up to the international community to enforce the ICC judges’ ruling.

While both Russia and Ukraine are not member states of the ICC, it was a referral by Ukraine to the court in 2015 that gives it jurisdiction over any war crime committed on its territory, even if by Russia or other non-member states, according to a Reuters report.

The ICC does not have its own police force or any other means to enforce its rulings. However, with the arrest warrants in place, any member state can arrest Putin or Lvova-Belova if they travelled to those countries. 

The ICC has said the fact that Russia never ratified the Rome Statute is “completely irrelevant”  

“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,” Hofmanski told Al Jazeera in an interview. 

He said all 123 state parties have the “legal obligation to cooperate fully with the court”, according to the statute, and this includes the obligation of arresting someone against whom arrest warrants have been issued.

The proverbial sword of Damocles will hence hang over Putin’s head whenever he would seek to attend an international gathering in a country that is an ICC member state.

India is not among the 123 ICC state parties.

“So Putin might go to China, Syria, Iran, his … few allies, but he just won’t travel to the rest of the world and won’t travel to ICC member states who he believes would … arrest him,” an Associated Press quoted Adil Ahmad Haque, an international law and armed conflict expert at Rutgers University, as saying.

Former international prosecutor David Crane told AP: “Vladimir Putin will forever be marked as a pariah globally. He has lost all his political credibility around the world. Any world leader who stands by him will be shamed as well.”