By: Saumesh Thimbath
The International Criminal Court on Friday announced an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on the war crime accusation of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children.
Moscow dismissed the orders as “void.” Russia is not a party to the ICC so it was unclear if or how Putin could ever end up in the dock.
War-battered Ukraine welcomed the ICC announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelensky hailing the “historic decision.”
Ukraine’s Western allies also hailed the move.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday that Putin has clearly committed war crimes and the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for him was justified.
More than 16,000 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia since the February 24, 2022 invasion, according to Kyiv, with many allegedly placed in institutions and foster homes.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Putin was now liable for arrest if he sets foot in any of the court’s more than 120 member states.
He said the arrest warrants were “based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny and what’s been said by those two individuals”.
“The evidence we presented focused on crimes against children. Children are the most vulnerable part of our society,” said Khan.
The Hague-based ICC said it had also issued a warrant against Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, on similar charges.
The ICC said judges found there were “reasonable grounds” to suspect Putin’s criminal responsibility and grant Khan’s application for the warrants, which were made back on February 22.
The arrest warrant for Putin, a sitting head of state of a UN Security Council member, is an unprecedented step for the ICC.
Set up in 2002, the ICC is a court of last resort for the world’s worst crimes, when countries cannot or will not prosecute suspects.
Prosecutor Khan launched an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine just days after Russia’s invasion.