By DaQuan Lawrence,
Special to the AFRO

The International Criminal Court (ICC) said March 17 that it has issued arrest warrants for Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova for their alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine. 

[Putin] “is allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation of (children) and that of unlawful transfer of (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation” said an ICC spokesperson.

The charges brought against Putin marks the first time the international court has issued a warrant against the head of state one of the U.N. Security Council’s permanent five members.

Russian officials have adamantly refuted the claims, with the former leader of Russia Dmitry Medvedev calling the charges “akin to toilet paper.” Medvedev has served as the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia since 2020. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the court’s move “outrageous and unacceptable,” upholding that Russia doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void,” according to The AP.

According to the ICC’s pre-trial chamber, Putin “bears individual criminal responsibility” for child abductions, “for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others,” and for failing to “exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts.”

Despite the charges, it is unlikely Putin will stand trial for several key reasons, primarily because Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC and Moscow does not extradite its citizens. 

In addition to the fact that the Russian Federation is not a signatory of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which governs the global court, the ICC does not have the power to make arrests. The ICC also lacks enforcement officers and relies on actions from international party states. 

ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said that “while the ICC’s judges have issued the warrants, it will be up to the international community to enforce them.”

Putin, therefore, is unlikely to face the charges in the near future unless he travels to another country within the ICC’s jurisdiction. 

“Putin might go to China, Syria, Iran, [or his ally states], but he just won’t travel to ICC member states who he believes would … arrest him,” said Adil Ahmad Haque, an international law and armed conflict expert at Rutgers University, as cited by The AP. 

Some international experts and members of the international community consider the recent accusations and consequent public scrutiny as steps in the right direction.   

“The ICC has made Putin a wanted man,” said Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The warrants send a clear message that giving orders to commit, or tolerating, serious crimes against civilians may lead to a prison cell in The Hague.” 

Russian officials and other members of the international community believe the ICC’s actions are more symbolic and rhetorical. Maria Zakharova, director of the Information and Press Department in Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the ICC’s decision “null and void” and said “it has no significance whatsoever” because Russia is not obligated to follow the laws of the ICC.

Within international law the issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction are important. Sovereignty, a conceptual framework for how nation-states interact with one another, generally means countries control what happens inside their borders and can’t interfere in a foreign state’s affairs.

As a UN member state, therefore, Russia has several rights that must be protected. 

UN officials said “the Secretariat does not get involved in the affairs of the ICC, as the two bodies are independent.”

However, “the Secretary-General would not rule out meeting with any individual, if it helps promote establishing peace and security in any environment,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN’s secretary-general. 

Ultimately, the charges brought against Putin and Lvova-Belova amount to international moral condemnation and shaming, rather than an indication that the Russian officials will stand trial in the global court. 

 “Vladimir Putin will forever be marked as a pariah and has lost all his political credibility around the world. Any world leader who stands by him will be shamed as well,” said David Crane, a former international prosecutor who indicted Liberian President Charles Taylor two decades ago for crimes in Sierra Leone. Although the U.S. played a significant role in establishing the Rome Statute, it is not a signatory state to the treaty and does not recognize the ICC’s jurisdiction. Still, President Joe Biden declared the ICC’s decision was “justified,” and said the ICC “makes a very strong point” to call out the Russian leader’s actions in ordering the invasion.

Leave a comment