By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, March 17, 2023
The Pre-Trial Chamber of the UN-backed International Criminal Court (ICC), on Friday issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
ICC President, Piotr Hofmański, said that the arrest warrant is in connection with alleged war crimes concerning the deportation and “illegal transfer” of children from occupied Ukraine.
“The contents of the warrants are secret to protect the victims.
“Nevertheless, the judges decided to make the existence of the warrants public, in the interest of justice and to prevent future crimes,” Hofmański said.
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II also issued a warrant for the arrest of Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.
The orders state that each are “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation” of children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia, the UN-backed court said in announcing the warrants.
“The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from February 24, 2022,” the ICC detailed. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin and Lvova-Belova bear individual criminal responsibility.”
The court found reasonable grounds that Putin bears responsibility for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and, or through others.
Also, “for his failure 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”.
All allegations are in line with the Rome Statute. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the statute, which created the judicial body in 1998.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said those responsible for alleged crimes must be held accountable and that children must be returned to their families and communities.
“We cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war,” he said.
“Incidents identified by my Office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes. Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation.”
Through presidential decrees issued by President Putin, the law was changed in Russia to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families.
“My Office alleges that these acts, amongst others, demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country,” he said.
“At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Asked by reporters to comment on the arrest warrants at the regular briefing in New York on Friday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, stressed that the ICC and the UN were “separate institutions, with separate mandates.’’
The International Criminal Court is an independent, permanent judicial body. It was established in accordance with the Rome Statute, signed on July 17, 1998, at a conference in the capital of Italy.
Its competence extends to all the most serious international crimes committed after July 1, 2002, the date the Rome Statute came into force.
The court’s jurisdiction is limited to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
During the first 20 years of operations, the ICC has tried and resolved cases of significance for international justice, shedding light on the crimes committed by the use of child soldiers, the destruction of cultural heritage, sexual violence, or attacks on innocent civilians.