Although this is still the beginning stage, it is a sign of hope that perpetrators of grave atrocities will be brought to justice. Additionally, this may be the beginning of the end to his reign of terror. We hope that the ICC will investigate crimes in other countries like Belarus whose leadership continues to detain and use excessive force against children.
As we may have heard by now, the pre-trial chamber of The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant against President Vladmir Putin of the Russian Federation and his children’s rights commissioner Ms Maria Alesvega. The warrants were issued for alleged war crimes for the unlawful deportation of children and unlawful transfer of people from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. For many members of the international and human rights community, this is a welcome turn of events. The warrants were announced March 17 2023, a few weeks past the one year anniversary since Putin sent troops into Ukraine. Since the beginning of this war, there have been allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity being carried out by Putin and Russia. International lawyers and NGOs have been working to document these crimes eagerly awaiting the time that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. The ICC is one of the bodies that is tasked to reduce impunity and bring justice to victims of the worst crimes. These are crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggravation and genocide.
Although human rights experts hoped that Putin would be brought to justice for his crimes, Many did not anticipate the process to start this soon. Perhaps, the child abuse element of the crimes inspired the ICC to take swift action. International legal and accountability systems have a reputation for being slow, performative and having little to no enforceability powers, one can understand the apprehension for these institutions. Nonetheless, The ICC is one of the very few institutions that have managed to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice in the past. This is not the first time that notorious leaders have been indicted by the ICC. The ICC arrested former Liberian president Charles Taylor and sentenced him to fifty years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The decision to indict Putin may have come as a shock to many, especially those who are not familiar with international law processes. The war in Ukraine is still ongoing and many have wondered what political ramifications the warrants will have. ICC President Piotr Hofmanski, stated that as a court of law, the ICC will follow its mandate and will not consider ‘political consequences’ when making its decisions. For a long time, Putin has inspired fear which has led people to assume that he is untouchable. One might wonder what the warrants by the ICC would accomplish in this situation. The warrants issued by the ICC means that States who are party to the Rome Statute have an obligation to arrest Putin if he is in their borders. Ukraine is a party to the statute, which means that it is irrelevant if Russia is a party to the Statute because the alleged crimes were committed in Ukraine. The warrants certainly do not mean that Putin will be arraigned soon. Former president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, has still not appeared before the international court despite the fact that there has been a warrant issued for his arrest since 2009. It seems that if Putin stays put in Russia or travels to the country of his allies, he and his cohort will be able to avoid arrest for an indefinite period.
There are still ongoing investigations into the crimes committed in the Russia-Ukraine war, which means that more indictments may still be added against Putin. Although this is still the beginning stage, it is a sign of hope that perpetrators of grave atrocities will be brought to justice. Additionally, this may be the beginning of the end to his reign of terror. We hope that the ICC will investigate crimes in other countries like Belarus whose leadership continues to detain and use excessive force against children.
Written by Julia Myron- International lawyer and Transitional justice practitioner . 68 Vicarage lane London UK E15 4HQ