The Hague: The Pre-Trial Chamber of the UN-backed International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Friday, in connection with alleged war crimes concerning the deportation and “illegal transfer” of children from occupied Ukraine, the head of the ICC said.
“The contents of the warrants are secret to protect the victims,” said ICC President Piotr Hofmański. “Nevertheless, the judges decided to make the existence of the warrants public, in the interest of justice and to prevent future crimes.”
The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber II also issued a warrant for the arrest of Russia’s Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova. The orders state that each are “allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation” of children from occupied territories in Ukraine to Russia, the UN-backed court said in announcing the warrants.
“The crimes were allegedly committed in Ukrainian occupied territory at least from 24 February 2022,” the ICC detailed. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin and Lvova-Belova bear individual criminal responsibility.”
The court found reasonable grounds that Putin bears responsibility for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and, or through others, 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”.
All allegations are in line with the Rome Statute. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are parties to the statute, which created the judicial body in 1998.
Protecting the victims
ICC Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan said those responsible for alleged crimes must be held accountable and that children must be returned to their families and communities.
“We cannot allow children to be treated as if they are the spoils of war,” he said. “Incidents identified by my Office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes. Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation.”
Through presidential decrees issued by President Putin, the law was changed in Russia to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families.
“My Office alleges that these acts, amongst others, demonstrate an intention to permanently remove these children from their own country,” he said. “At the time of these deportations, the Ukrainian children were protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The Chamber had initially decided that the warrants should not be published in order to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation, Hofmański said.
However, mindful that the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing, and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes, the Chamber considered that it is “in the interests of justice to authorize the Registry to publicly disclose the existence of the warrants, the name of the suspects, the crimes for which the warrants are issued, and the modes of liability as established by the Chamber”, the ICC said.
Asked by reporters to comment on the arrest warrants at the regular Noon Briefing in New York on Friday, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, stressed that the ICC and the UN were “separate institutions, with separate mandates.”