Who made this decision and why?
On February 22, 2023, the Prosecutorʼs Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) appealed to the Pre-Trial Chamber (it is like an investigating judge, but three judges work in the ICC Chamber) with a request to issue a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova. The Chamber considered the petition, studied the evidence that the prosecutor had to provide to the judges, and only then approved its decision. The document states that Putin and Lvova-Belova are personally responsible for this war crime and the court has reason to believe so.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan informed that his office confirmed cases of deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and boarding schools. According to the investigation, many of these children were given up for adoption in the Russian Federation. According to prosecutors, this indicates that they wanted to take the children out of Ukraine forever.
What does warrant mean? Is this an admission of guilt? Who has the right to arrest Putin? Where can this be done?
In simple terms, from now on, Putin is officially suspected of committing a war crime. And the fact that he is the president doesnʼt protect him from criminal prosecution. The judge issued this warrant, hoping that it would deter Putin and Lvova-Belova from taking further steps to deport Ukrainian children. If Putin is detained, the court will then choose a preventive measure for him and continue the investigation.
123 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute are now required to arrest Putin. These are all European countries, all South American countries, including some members of BRICS — an organization in which Russia is a member. Also, members of the IСС include Japan, Australia and Canada, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Mongolia and many other countries. By the way, Ukraine hasnʼt ratified the Rome Statute. But this does not mean that we cannot detain Putin if suddenly appears on our territory.
The International Criminal Court also has the right to appeal to Interpol with a request to detain Putin, as declares a Ukrainian expert on international and national criminal law Gunduz Mamedov. Then it will be possible to additionally detain Putin in the countries where Interpolʼs jurisdiction extends — that is 195 countries.
What if these countries refuse to arrest Putin? Will they be punished somehow?
Depends on the country. Countries that have ratified the Rome Statute are obliged to comply with the decision of the ICC, so it is unlikely that someone will refuse to comply with this order. Otherwise, the question may arise about the expediency of such a countryʼs membership in the ICC, says Mamedov. But countries that have just signed the Rome Statute can really refuse to arrest, and there are no pressure mechanisms on them.
When will the trial be?
No one knows this. It is important to understand that the International Criminal Court examines the case on its merits only when the accused is personally on the dock. So until Putin is physically brought to The Hague, there will be no trial. In addition, he should be indicted for that.
Will it be possible to conduct political and economic negotiations with Putin?
The official ban on that isnʼt written anywhere. But for democratic countries, the question will arise: are they ready to cooperate with a person who is suspected of a war crime?
Will it affect the war? Is it possible to conduct peace talks with people with such a status?
Itʼs impossible to say definitely, but it will probably have an effect — and it would be in Ukraineʼs favor. It will be difficult for Putin now to lure the leaders of other countries to his side and, for example, ask for weapons to fight with us. The question of peace negotiations with Putin is also now off the agenda, because he is officially suspected of war crimes. Volodymyr Zelensky has said before that Ukraine wonʼt negotiate with Putin. But now, after the ICCʼs decision, Ukraineʼs position has strengthened.
Presidents with such warrants often lose power. For example, Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was accused of war crimes, had an arrest warrant issued while he was still president. A month later, Taylor informed about his resignation. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević also lost his presidency after the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia indicted him and issued an arrest warrant in 1999. He lost another presidential election in 2000, and in June 2001 he was arrested in Serbia. The government did not want to hand him over to the Tribunal for a long time, but eventually gave in in exchange for financial aid to Yugoslavia, namely $1.25 billion. The former president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir also received a warrant for his arrest in 2009. As a result of the coup in 2019, he lost power and was extradited to the International Criminal Court within a year.
Translated from Ukrainian by Ruslana Stoltz.
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