Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be handcuffed any time soon after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him, but former US officials and war crimes prosecutors said the former KGB agent’s world was significant following the announcement shrunk.
Friday’s court indictment that he oversaw the war crime of unlawfully kidnapping and deporting children from Ukraine to Russia cements his status as an international pariah and will severely limit his ability to travel outside Russia, the experts said.
“The upshot of this is that he will not travel to where he thinks he might be arrested,” said Todd Buchwald, who served as special coordinator for the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice in the Obama and Trump administrations.
Though the ICC does not have its own police force, the warrant “locks down” the 123 countries that have signed the statute that created the court because Putin risks arrest if he travels to any of them, Buchwald said now Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School.
By law, these countries are required to execute arrest warrants regardless of the rank of the accused. However, most governments also adhere to an international rule of law according to which heads of state enjoy legal immunity from other courts.
And it’s unclear how many governments would be willing to go after and arrest the president of a nuclear-armed, oil-rich power with a history of vengeance and assassinations.
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, dismissed the court’s findings. “We do not recognize this court, we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. That’s how we handle it,” he said in a Telegram post on Friday.
But Putin faces the risk of being arrested and flown to The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is based.
The warrant “also puts pressure on any future Russian government,” said Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer who leads teams of local and international prosecutors and investigators in Ukraine. “If they want to normalize relations with the international community, there is an easy way to do it: bring him to justice,” he said.
There is precedent for a country trying its leader for war crimes.
The arrest warrant issued in 1999 for then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by the United Nations Yugoslav tribunal for war crimes committed in Bosnia “became a vehicle to remove him from Serbia,” said Dermot Groome, who led the investigation and prosecution against Milosevic before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
“As more and more Serbian citizens and army members grew tired of his iron grip on power and his wasting of the lives of young Serbian men in neighboring Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, his support crumbled and in June 2001 he was arrested by Serbian authorities and was taken to The Hague on that warrant, where he was charged with international crimes,” said Groome, now a professor at Penn State Dickinson Law.
Milosevic died before the trial could be completed and the limitations of the ICC are well known. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the former President of Sudan, has been charged but has never been arrested in countries he has traveled to.
But the court has convicted 10 people over the use of child soldiers in the DRC, including Thomas Lubanga, who was found guilty of war crimes in 2012.
And there is hope that the arrest warrant for Putin could reduce excessive violence and brutality in Ukraine, where Russia has also paid a heavy price since invading in February 2022, with some estimates that the country lost around 200,000 troops in the first year of the war has.
The move alerts Russia that international prosecutors are closely following the regime’s actions on the battlefield and could make some Russian officials think twice before carrying out orders that could put them in legal jeopardy, experts said.
It “puts pressure” on people around Putin to “distance from him,” Buchwald said.
Source : www.nbcnews.com