The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and children's ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova. The Kremlin called it "outrageous" and "insignificant" in terms of law. Let's analyze the consequences of this decision.
Why Putin and Belova.
There is a lot of public evidence of the illegal deportation of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia, writes The New York Times. And that's why lawyers familiar with the ICC case recently told the publication they were waiting for an arrest warrant to be issued. The testimonies that the publication writes about are statements that Putin and the children's ombudsman made publicly. The Commissioner for Children's Rights spoke many times about sending Ukrainian children to Russia. A month ago, state television showed a conversation between Putin and Belova that “the number of applications from our citizens regarding the adoption of children” from the occupied territories of Ukraine is also growing. From the point of view of international law, the movement of children from the occupied territories is a war crime.
Putin becomes restricted to travel abroad. 123 countries have signed the Rome Statute of the ICC. Visiting these countries is now dangerous for the Russian leader. But not only they can send the accused, whose extradition is requested by the ICC, to The Hague, Denis Krivosheev, deputy director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of Amnesty International, told the Agency. In his opinion, it is risky for Putin to come to countries that are not a party to the statute, but can assume obligations to fulfill its conditions. “It is difficult to know in advance which state will decide to do this. I think Putin will not take risks,” the expert believes.
The ICC warrant makes Putin a pariah and risks being arrested abroad, agrees Stephen Rapp, a former ambassador at large who headed the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the US State Department.
However, the decisions of the ICC were not always implemented. The court charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, but he traveled abroad and was not arrested in other countries.
Signal to Beijing and Washington.
Harold Koch, professor of international law at Yale Law School, told the NYT that the warrant not only isolates Putin, but deters China from supplying weapons to Russia. In addition, it will reduce the resistance that the US military is putting up against the transfer to the ICC of evidence collected in the US of Russian war crimes.
A signal to the Russian elites.
According to The Guardian, the ICC is sending a signal to high-ranking Russian military and civilian officials that they too may face trial. This will limit their ability to travel the world and participate in international forums.
The ICC warrant shows that "heads of state and military leaders cannot commit war crimes with an absolute guarantee of non-responsibility," Michael Newton, a law professor at Vanderbilt University, told The Wall Street Journal.
Two ICC warrants may not be limited. Krivosheev says that so far the warrant has been issued for only one crime, but today's court decision will not be the last. “There is a whole list of well-documented crimes, so the list of suspects will increase,” said an Amnesty spokesman. The day before, the UN commission of inquiry into violations in Ukraine published a report on war crimes during the war, reporting, among other things, on premeditated killings, illegal imprisonment and torture.
A blow to Russian diplomacy.
Those countries that support the ICC and are part of the Rome Statute will have to rethink their relationship with Russian diplomacy, former Russian diplomat Boris Bondarev told The Agency. “It is hard to imagine that, on the one hand, Putin is accused of serious crimes, and on the other hand, Scholz or Macron are negotiating personally with him or with a delegation that he authorized. It is possible that the next step in terms of common sense is to declare him an illegitimate president, but then the question arises, who is the legitimate leader of the country? At the same time, the decision of the ICC will not stop the head of China, Xi Jinping, and he will arrive in Russia on a state visit in March, Bondarev believes.
Will Putin get to The Hague.
According to The New York Times, the ICC works like this: first, the prosecutor (in this case, Karim Khan) presents evidence of the suspect's guilt to a panel of three judges at the preliminary investigation stage, after which an arrest warrant is issued. After that, the wanted person must be brought to court, and only then do pre-trial hearings and then the main hearings take place.
Thus, if the suspect manages to avoid arrest, there will be no hearing to confirm the charges. This means that a judgment in absentia is not possible. However, when an international warrant was issued for the arrest of Milosevic, few believed in the reality of his detention, but two years later the head of the former Yugoslavia was arrested and sent to The Hague.