Putin advertised in The Hague

The war in Ukraine reaches the courts.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
18 March 2023 Saturday 05:57
5 Reads
Putin advertised in The Hague

The war in Ukraine reaches the courts. In a historic decision, the International Criminal Court in The Hague yesterday issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for his alleged responsibility for war crimes committed in Ukraine, specifically the illegal deportation of children and the forced displacement of minors from the occupied areas in the Russian Federation.

The charges are the first international accusations against the Kremlin since the start of the war. And while the chances of Putin ending up in The Hague's dock are slim, Ukraine's allies and advocates of international justice hailed the decision as a step toward ending Russia's impunity in the war. For now, the orders will further limit the Russian leader's ability to travel abroad.

After examining the evidence presented by the prosecutor of the ICC, Karim Khan, the preliminary questions chamber came to the conclusion yesterday that "there are reasonable grounds to think that Mr. Putin has individual criminal responsibility for these crimes," he explained the Court in a statement, either for having committed these acts directly or through others, or for his inability to control his civil and military subordinates, who committed these acts or permitted them, who were persons who were under his "authority".

The Hague has also issued an international arrest warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia's Commissioner for Children's Rights, for her alleged responsibility in these same acts. In a recent television broadcast, the senior Russian official thanked Putin that she herself was able to "adopt" a 15-year-old boy from Ukraine.

In view of the indications that these behaviors "continue to occur", the preliminary chamber of the Court has reached the conclusion that "it is in the interest of justice" to announce these orders, since their publicity can help prevent new crimes, he explained the presiding judge of the ICC, the Polish Piotr Józef Hofmański.

In recent days there had been speculation about the possibility that the ICC would also open a case against the Russian authorities for the attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, but for now the Hague has only taken the step in relation to the abduction of children, facts for which the European Union has sanctioned several Russian politicians. The court attributes these facts directly to President Putin.

In a separate statement, the prosecutor explained that his team has gathered "evidence" that "at least hundreds" of Ukrainian children have been taken from orphanages and foster care centers, and many of these "have been given under adoption in the Russian Federation”. Legal changes approved last year through presidential decrees signed by Putin speed up the granting of Russian citizenship to these minors, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families. "These and other acts demonstrate the intention to remove these children from their country permanently", defends Khan. The Ukrainian Government raises to 16,000 the number of children, both young and teenagers, who have been taken out of the country to be handed over to Russian families or entered into "re-education" camps. The Kremlin does not deny the existence of these programs, but presents them as a humanitarian campaign to help children affected by the war.

The Hague does not grant immunity to heads of state in cases of alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, but the possibilities of trying any Russian citizen at the ICC are nevertheless very limited. Moscow does not recognize its jurisdiction and does not extradite its nationals, aside from their positions. Putin, therefore, would have to travel to a signatory country of the institution (there are 123) to potentially be arrested. Among them are some of Moscow's allies, such as Tajikistan, where Putin recently traveled, as well as several African and Latin American countries, such as South Africa, Venezuela and Brazil, with which Russia maintains good relations and which, theoretically, they are now bound to arrest him if he steps on the territory. No arrest, no trial: The court doesn't try rebellion cases, although the charges don't go away either.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recalled that "Russia, like a number of countries, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and, consequently, its decisions are null and void" (the US and China also do not are members). Lvova-Belova, for her part, reacted with irony: "It's great that the international community appreciates the work we do to help the children of our country," said the person in charge of the program.

For Kyiv, on the other hand, the TPI's decision is hopeful news. "The wheels of justice are in motion (...), international criminals will have to be held accountable for stealing children and other international crimes", celebrated the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmitró Kuleba. Ukraine is not a member of the court, but has given it jurisdiction over its territory and its prosecutor has visited it on several occasions since the investigation opened nearly a year ago. "This is just the beginning of the process to hold Russia and its leaders accountable for the crimes and atrocities committed," assured the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.