The International Court of Justice (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin of Russia on March 17, in connection with alleged war crimes concerning the deportation and “illegal transfer” of children from occupied Ukraine.
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 contents of the warrants are secret to protect the victims,” said ICC President Piotr Hofmański. “Nevertheless, the judges decided to make the existence of the warrants public, in the interest of justice and to prevent future crimes,” said ICC President Piotr Hofmański.
The ICC said that Putin, President of the Russian Federation, 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 (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute). The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, (i) for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute), and (ii) 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 (article 28(b) of the Rome Statute),. The ICC detailed in a statement.
Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, 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 (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute). The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022. There are reasonable grounds to believe that Ms Lvova-Belova bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others (article 25(3)(a) of the Rome Statute), the ICC said.
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.
The Chamber considered that the warrants are secret in order to protect victims and witnesses and to safeguard the investigation. Nevertheless, mindful that the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing, and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes, the Chamber considered that it is in the interests of justice to authorise the Registry to publicly disclose the existence of the warrants, the name of the suspects, the crimes for which the warrants are issued, and the modes of liability as established by the Chamber.
“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. The law was changed in the Russian Federation, through Presidential decrees issued by President Putin, to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families,” said in a Statement by Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan.
The Statement reads thus; My Office alleges that these acts, amongst others, demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country. At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
We also underlined in our application that most acts in this pattern of deportations were carried out in the context of the acts of aggression committed by Russian military forces against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which began in 2014.
In September last year, I addressed the United Nations Security Council and emphasised that the investigation of alleged illegal deportation of children from Ukraine was a priority for my Office. The human impact of these crimes was also made clear during my most recent visit to Ukraine. While there, I visited one of the care homes from which children were allegedly taken, close to the current frontlines of the conflict. The accounts of those who had cared for these children, and their fears as to what had become of them, underlined the urgent need for action.
We must ensure that those responsible for alleged crimes are held accountable and that children are returned to their families and communities. As I stated at the time, we cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war.
Since taking up my position as Prosecutor, I have emphasised that the law must provide shelter to the most vulnerable on the front lines, and that we also must put the experiences of children in conflict at the centre of our work. To do this, we have sought to bring our work closer to communities, draw on advanced technological tools and, crucially, build innovative partnerships in support of our investigative work.
I am grateful for the support of many partners of the Office that have allowed us to move forward rapidly in the collection of evidence. I wish to express my thanks in particular to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine whose engagement has been essential in supporting the work my Office has carried out, including on the ground in Ukraine. Our participation in the Joint Investigation Team with national authorities from seven States, under the auspices of Eurojust, has also facilitated swift access to relevant information and evidence.
I will also continue to seek cooperation from the Russian Federation in relation to the Situation in Ukraine, and ensure my Office fully meets its responsibility pursuant to article 54 of the Rome Statute to investigate incriminating and exonerating circumstances equally.
“The contents of the warrants are secret to protect the victims,” said ICC President Piotr Hofmański. “Nevertheless, the judges decided to make the existence of the warrants public, in the interest of justice and to prevent future crimes.”
NULL AND VOID
Rejecting the arrest warrant as unacceptable, Russia said that it is not subject to ICC decisions.
“Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, accordingly, any decisions of this kind are null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov tweeted.
Comparing the ICC arrest warrant to toilet papers, Former Russian President and deputy chair of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev said “The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin. No need to explain where this paper should be used “
“Russia is not a member of Rome Statute of ICC & bears no obligations under it. Russia doesn’t cooperate with this body & possible warrants for arrest coming from the International Court of Justice will be legally null and void for us,” tweeted Russian Foreign Ministry Spox Maria Zakharova.