The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in connection with his actions during the Ukraine war – the first international indictment since Russia invaded the neighboring country more than a year ago.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant on Friday, charging the President with “alleged responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and unlawful transfer of population (children) from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.”
A similar arrest warrant was issued for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, for her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of Ukrainian children and adolescents.
Investigators in Hauge have been collecting evidence against Putin over the past year, but an ICC prosecution remains a challenging task as Russia does not recognize the court or its jurisdiction, making a trial unlikely. Moscow does not extradite its nationals either.
At the same time, Ukraine is also not a member of the court. However, it has given the ICC jurisdiction over its territory.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Kham, who has visited Ukraine four times since he began his investigation a year ago, has previously indicated that kidnapping Ukrainian minors is a priority for his team.
Last month, a report released by the Conflict Observatory found that since the war began, Russia has systematically relocated at least 6,000 children and placed them in camps and institutions that have been conducting pro-Russian re-education efforts for the children. The State Department-backed Conflict Observatory is a program that tracks alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The report was produced in collaboration with Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab.
The ICC investigation was launched in the early days of the war and focused on investigating allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine.
As defined by the United Nations, a war crime is “serious violations of the law and practice in force in international armed conflicts,” including intentional attacks on civilian populations, torture, kidnapping, rape and conscription of children, among other atrocities.
Established by the Rome Statute in 1998, the ICC has jurisdiction over cases in which individuals are charged with such crimes. Russia and Ukraine are excluded from the 123 members of the court because they have signed but not ratified the statute.
However, this type of prosecution can take years and be difficult to argue, since prosecutors not only have to establish a violation, but also have to prove “intent and knowledge” of the crime.
In cases of crimes such as attacking civilians, these facts could be difficult to prove.
Despite the arrest warrant, the ICC does not have the power to arrest suspects and can only exercise its jurisdiction with the 123 members of the court. And since Russia does not extradite its nationals, and is particularly unlikely to do so of its president, Putin’s arrest is not imminent.