ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin over alleged war crimes of ‘unlawful’ deportation of Ukrainian children

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another Russian official, alleging war crimes related to the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

The arrest warrant is believed to be one of the first charges against Putin for war crimes in Ukraine, part of a global effort to hold the Russian president and the Russian Federation accountable for atrocities beginning with the all-out invasion in February 2022.

A An arrest warrant was also issued for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, who accuses the ICC of “bearing individual criminal responsibility” for the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from Russian-occupied territory to Russia.

“Occupying powers are prohibited under international law from relocating civilians from the area in which they live to other areas. Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention,” said ICC President Judge Piotr Hofmański said in a video statement on Friday.

The arrest warrant represents a startling global rebuke against Putin, even if the chance of bringing the Russian leader before an international court is slim at best.

“The ICC is doing its part of the job. As a court, the judges issued arrest warrants, the execution of which depends on international cooperation,” Hofmański said.

The arrest warrants and the authority of the International Criminal Court were rejected by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“Russia does not cooperate with this body, and possible ‘prescriptions’ for arrests coming from the International Court of Justice are legally null and void for us,” read a statement published in Russian on the Foreign Ministry’s Telegram channel .

The ICC claims it can bring charges against Russian officials because Ukraine has accepted its jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed by Russia on Ukrainian territory.

The ICC President underlined the extraordinary nature of the publication of the arrest warrants, although the content is kept secret to protect victims and witnesses and to secure the investigation.

The international organization said it was forced to release the arrest warrants to “help prevent further crimes” as the forced transfer of Ukrainian children to Russia continues.

“This is an important moment in the trial before the ICC,” Hofmański continued. “The judges reviewed the information and evidence provided by the prosecution and found that there were credible allegations against these individuals for the alleged crimes.”

The release of the arrest warrants – a rare move by the International Criminal Court – comes ahead of a high-level and high-profile meeting between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, scheduled to take place between March 20-22.

International law experts say the publication of an arrest warrant, signaling other countries to carefully review their dealings with a person under investigation on the world stage, constitutes an important element of public shame.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin called the ICC’s arrest warrant “a historic step” but the start of “a long road to justice”.

“From now on, the Russian President has the official status of a suspect in committing an international crime – illegal deportation and expulsion of Ukrainian children,” said Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin wrote on Facebook.

“This means that Putin should be arrested and tried outside of Russia. And world leaders will think three times before shaking hands with him or sitting down with him at the negotiating table. The world has received a signal that the Russian regime is criminal and its leadership and allies will be brought to justice.”

The ICC’s statement said the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II, which has the power to issue an arrest warrant, examined evidence presented by the ICC’s Attorney General on February 22.

This followed the February 14 release a report from the Conflict Observatory, supported by the US State Department, details a vast network of Russian-run websites used in the rendition and deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory, including thousands of Ukrainian children.

Kostin said his office estimates that more than 16,000 children have been deported from Russian-held Ukrainian territories from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv and Kherson regions, but warned the real number is much higher.

Ukraine managed to bring back 308 children from Russia, Kostin said.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said his office has worked with the ICC Prosecutor General in their investigation to provide 40 volumes with more than 1,000 pages of materials and supporting evidence for deportations.

“There is no doubt that this is a planned policy of the Russian Federation aimed at destroying Ukraine as a state and Ukrainians as a nation. By kidnapping our children, Russia is literally stealing our future.”

While Ukrainian officials, with the help of the US and international partners, are investigating and prosecuting crimes by the Russian armed forces in Ukrainian courts, Kyiv is also focused on holding Russia accountable on the international stage, particularly for genocide and other crimes against humanity, including violent ones Attacks on civilians, use of rape as a weapon of war, imprisonment, torture and executions.

In addition to working with the ICC is the Ukrainian government Bringing international partners together set up a special tribunal to try Russia for the crime of aggression, but the path and support for such a tribunal is yet to be determined.

In his Facebook post, Kostin called for all Ukrainian children to be brought back from Russia and for justice to be done.

“We have to bring them all back. And condemn all those involved in the forced deportation of Ukrainian children in Ukrainian and international courts. As well as other war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the most serious international crime – aggression.”

Updated at 2:02 p.m

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Source : news.yahoo.com

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