THE HAGUE, March 17 (AP) – The International Criminal Court said Friday that it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges for his involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children.
In a statement, the court said Putin was “allegedly responsible for the war crimes of the unlawful deportation (of the children) and the illegal transfer (of the children) from occupied Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
It also issued an arrest warrant on Friday for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, the child rights commissioner in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, on similar charges.
The move was immediately dismissed by Moscow and welcomed by Ukraine as a major breakthrough. However, its practical impact is likely to be negligible.
Even though the court has indicted world leaders before, it is the first time an arrest warrant has been issued against one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Court President Piotr Hofmanski said in a video statement that while ICC judges had issued arrest warrants, it would be up to the international community to execute them. The court does not have its own police force to enforce arrest warrants.
“The ICC is fulfilling its mandate as a court,” he said. “The judge issued the arrest warrant. Execution depends on international cooperation.”
The chances of any Russians being tried at the ICC remain highly unlikely because Moscow does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction – a position it strongly reiterated on Friday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Russia does not recognize the ICC and considers its decision “legally invalid”. He added that Russia considered the court’s move “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Peskov declined to comment when asked whether Putin would avoid traveling to countries where he could be arrested under an ICC warrant.
Ukrainian officials were elated.
“The world has changed,” said Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “the wheels of justice are turning,” adding that “international criminals will be held accountable for child theft and other international crimes.”
Olga Lopatkina, a Ukrainian mother who has fought for months to get back her foster children deported to institutions run by Russian loyalists, welcomed news of the arrest warrant . “Great news!” she said in an exchange with The Associated Press. “Everyone must be punished for their crimes.”
Ukraine is also not a member of the ICJ, but it has granted it jurisdiction over its territory, and ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has visited four times since the investigation began a year ago.
The ICC said its Pre-Trial Chamber found that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that each of the suspects was responsible for the war crimes of unlawful deportation and unlawful transfer of populations from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation at the expense of Ukrainian children.”
The court statement said there were “reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin was personally criminally responsible for the child abduction incidents” because he committed them “directly, jointly with and/or through others (and) failing to exercise control” properly manage the civilian and military subordinates who carry out these acts.
Khan, the ICC prosecutor, said after his most recent visit, in early March, that he visited a children’s care home two kilometers (just over a mile) from Ukraine’s southern frontline.
“The pictures pinned to the wall…tell the background of the love and support that used to exist. But the home is empty, allegedly due to the deportation of children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation or their illegal transfer to temporarily occupied territories.” place,” he said in a statement. “As I noted to the UN Security Council last September, my office is prioritizing the investigation of these alleged actions. Children cannot be treated as trophies.”
While Russia has rejected the court’s charges and arrest warrant as invalid, others say the ICC’s action will have important ramifications.
“The International Criminal Court has made Putin a wanted man, taking the first step toward ending the impunity that has long emboldened Russia against the perpetrators of its war in Ukraine,” said Barki, deputy international justice director at Human Rights Watch. said Balkees Jarrah. A clear message that an order to commit or tolerate serious crimes against civilians could lead to a cell in The Hague. “
Professor David Klein, who prosecuted Liberia’s President Charles Taylor for crimes committed in Sierra Leone 20 years ago, said dictators and tyrants around the world “have now noticed that those who commit international crimes will be held accountable, Including heads of state.”
Taylor was eventually detained and tried by a special court in the Netherlands. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
“This is an important day for justice and for the citizens of Ukraine,” Klein said in written comments to The Associated Press on Friday.
On Thursday, a U.N.-backed investigation cited Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians, including systematic torture and killings in the occupied territories, as potential problems that amount to war crimes and possibly even crimes against humanity.
The full investigation also uncovered crimes committed against Ukrainians on Russian soil, including deported Ukrainian children who were not reunited with their families, a “filtering” system designed to detain Ukrainians in isolation, and torture and inhumane conditions of detention.
But on Friday, the International Criminal Court put Putin’s face on child abduction charges. (Associated Press)
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