Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

ICC indictment further isolates Putin

Last week an atmosphere of disdain permeated the press conference of the Russian Foreign Ministry as it commented on the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Russia, Maria Belova Lvova, after its investigation determined they were responsible for forcibly deporting children from Ukraine to Russia.

there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears personal criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes

ICC

Russia was found guilty of the crime of forcible deportation of the population, as indicated by the Rome Statute of 1998, basic to the ICC, where there are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears personal criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes because (a) he committed these acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others, or (b) he did not have adequate control over the military subordinates who committed the acts or allowed them to be committed.

When the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, cynically noted that the decisions of the ICC regarding “detention” do not make sense for the Russian Federation, including from a legal point of view, did she really mean it? From a practical point of view and at the present time, Putin enjoys full powers within the Russian territory and it is for sure that the Kremlin will not hand him over to the ICC. Consequently, it is expected that Vladimir Putin will not face any risk of arrest, detention, or extradition inside his country.

Facing the risk of arrest and extradition to the ICC, Putin will remain in a state of isolation, a prisoner of decision-making inside his own country, and will not be able to roam freely at all

However, the comfort that he enjoys inside his homeland will not be at the same level if he decides to leave the country and travel and move outside Russia where there are 122 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute, including the extradition agreement. Facing the risk of arrest and extradition to the ICC, Putin will remain in a state of isolation, a prisoner of decision-making inside his own country, and will not be able to roam freely at all except within the allied countries that are willing to violate the treaty.

Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov told reporters that “Russia, like a number of other countries, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court, and therefore, from a legal point of view, the decisions of this court are invalid.”

Many believe that if Putin had been held accountable for Russia’s crimes against humanity in Syria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine would never have happened

Nothing in the Russian response comes as a surprise to Syrians though. Ever since Putin decided in 2015 to intervene in Syria, and help prop up the failing regime of Bashar Assad, the Russian presence in Syria has been nothing short of catastrophic for them. And even before that, Russia was using its irrevocable power of veto to prevent all efforts of the UN Security Council to act on behalf of the beleaguered Syrian people. Many believe that if Putin had been held accountable for Russia’s crimes against humanity in Syria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine would never have happened. So, when the ICC issued its indictment of Putin last week for crimes committed in Ukraine, it was no surprise to see the same arrogant reaction from Russian authorities that Syrians have become accustomed to.

But most would say “better late than never.” The principle of extradition is among the legal measures taken by states in the field of international criminal cooperation in order to combat and eliminate international crime, and thus ensure the achievement of international security and justice and that the perpetrators do not escape criminal responsibility. 

the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that there is no immunity for any head of state or king, in any issues related to war crimes or crimes against humanity

Certainly, there are countries that have not implemented the arrest warrants issued by the ICC. For example, South Africa signed and ratified the Rome Statute of the ICC but in 2015, the South African government refused to hand over former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during his visit even though an arrest warrant was issued for him by the ICC in 2009 for the crime of committing genocide in Sudan. The South African government attempted to justify itself at the time by saying that the ICC’s decision was invalid under a local penal law in South Africa that grants presidents of republics and kings of states immunity, and that the law was consistent with international law.

But the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that there is no immunity for any head of state or king, in any issues related to war crimes or crimes against humanity. And there are many countries that have extradited accused criminals who were no longer in power. They have the authority to detain and deport those for whom arrest warrants have been issued by the ICC. An example of this is when France handed over the former second in command in Sudan, Ali Kushayb, to the ICC so that he could be brought to trial for the role he played in the genocide.

The [UN] report also documented “crimes against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including crimes of transporting Ukrainian children, and preventing them from returning to their families.”

In addition, President of the ICC, Piotr Hofmański, stated that “It is prohibited, according to international law, for the occupation authorities to transfer civilians from their lands to other places, and children enjoy special protection in the Geneva Convention, and the ICC pays great attention to the rights of civilians, especially children.” The judge concluded his speech by saying that the court is a judicial body and the judges are the ones who issued their decision. But the burden of implementing it remains dependent upon the sound basis of international cooperation.

Last Thursday (March 16), a United Nations report also accused Russia of committing violations against civilians in Ukraine, including “systematic torture and murders” in the territory it controls in Ukraine, which also amounts to “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” The report also documented “crimes against Ukrainians on Russian territory, including crimes of transporting Ukrainian children, and preventing them from returning to their families.”

Despite the legal importance of the decision issued against President Vladimir Putin, it also creates a political position that serves to tighten the screws and isolate him even more within Russia and the countries close to him that previously constituted the Soviet Union.

Almoutassim Al Kilani
Almoutassim Al Kilani
Human rights and international criminal law legal expert with experience in legal documentation, currently based in Paris, France.

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