ICC Issues Warrant for Putin’s Arrest


Image Courtesy of Newsweek

By Noah Slayter

On Friday, March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin over war crimes. 

The ICC claims Putin has committed an “unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” According to the court, Putin has been complicit in moving “potentially tens of thousands of Ukrainian children without their families” into Russian territory from occupied Ukrainian land since February 24, 2022. 

Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, was also charged. This is the first warrant issued by the ICC on the war in Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian government has charged low-level Russian soldiers with war crimes. 

The International Criminal Court is a self-described “court of last resort” for international criminal justice. Established in Rome in 1998, the court has jurisdiction over its 120 signatory countries. While Russia is not a signatory (nor the United States or Ukraine), the ICC still claims it has jurisdiction when international issues arise. The ICC holds sway over issues of “genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity” and sits in The Hauge in Denmark. 

The court wrote, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Putin 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), and 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).”

Image Courtesy of Conflict Observatory

A report by The Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab found that at least 6,000 children have been forced into “a network of re-education and adoption facilities in Russia-occupied Crimea and mainland Russia.” The same report has seen 43 of these facilities. Although some are “ostensible vacations” camps while others are traditional foster care and adoption facilities, all of the facilities focus on pro-Russia propaganda efforts, with some even providing the children with military training. Most of the camps are in Crimea, near Moscow, or between the two areas. Three camps are in Siberia or the far-east of Russia. The first known transfer of children to these sites occurred in February 2022 and most recently in January 2023. 

In response to the arrest warrant, Russia’s top investigative body has started its own counter-investigation into the ICC for knowingly accusing an innocent person of a crime and “preparing an attack on a representative of a foreign state enjoying international protection, in order to complicate international relations” based on Reuter’s reporting. This investigation is seen as a “symbolic gesture of defiance.”

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