The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin for being “allegedly responsible” for the war crime of deporting children from occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia.
Pre-trial judges at the Hague-based International Criminal Court said the Russian president could be held responsible for the forcible transfer of children from Ukrainian institutions to Russia, which documented by human rights groups.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears personal criminal responsibility for the above crimes,” ICC judges said in a statement Friday.
They also issued a warrant for the arrest of Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, accusing her of similar crimes.
These are the first warrants issued by the ICC, whose prosecutor Karim Khan began investigating alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine shortly after the start of the invasion last year. The warrant means Putin could be arrested if he travels to any country that is part of the ICC.
The Russian Foreign Ministry downplayed the impact of the warrant. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC and has no obligations under it,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “Russia is not cooperating with this organization, and the potential arrest ‘recipe’ issued by the ICC is legally void for us.”
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev echoed her comments, writing on Twitter that “no need to explain where this paper should be used” and adding a toilet paper emoji.
Russia has denied that its troops have committed war crimes or atrocities against civilians during the conflict. Instead, Moscow has accused Kiev of fabricating evidence and blaming Ukrainian troops for some of the atrocities.
ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement: “International law prohibits the transfer of nationals who have seized power from the territory in which they live to other territories, and children are under special protection.”
“The contents of the warrant are confidential to protect the victims,” Hoffmanski added. “However, the judges of the Chamber decided, in this case, to disclose the existence of the warrant, in the interest of justice, and to prevent the commission of future crimes.”
The judges had analyzed the evidence and believed “there are credible allegations against these individuals”, he said. But the execution of that warrant “depends on international cooperation”, he added.
Headquartered in The Hague, the ICC was established in 1998 to investigate war crimes and genocide. It has jurisdiction over countries that have signed its founding document, the Rome Statute. Russia is not a signatory, and neither are China, India, or the United States.
Ukraine is also not a member of the ICC but has recognized the court’s jurisdiction over events in the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
The ICC does not have its own police force, and relies on national authorities to arrest and deliver suspects for whom it has issued warrants. If arrested, the suspect is brought to the ICC detention center in The Hague, and his trial begins.
The ICC has issued 38 arrest warrants in its three-decade history, leading to 21 detentions. 10 have been convicted after trial.