The International Criminal Court has taken the important step of issuing an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war.
But does that mean the Russian president accused of war crimes of deporting children is really likely to stand trial in The Hague?
– how did it happen? –
ICC member states are obliged to execute arrest warrants for Putin and Russia’s presidential child rights commissioner Maria Livova-Belova if they travel to their countries.
“That’s right,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan told AFP when asked whether Putin would be arrested if he set foot in any of the 123 countries.
But while that could make Putin’s travel difficult, the court does not have its own police force to enforce its warrants and is entirely dependent on the cooperation of the ICC states.
Countries don’t always do this — especially when it involves a sitting head of state like Putin.
Despite an ICC arrest warrant, former Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir managed to visit several ICC members, including South Africa and Jordan.
Despite being ousted in 2019, the sultan has yet to hand him over.
Columbia Law School professor Matthew Waxman said it was “a very important step for the ICC, but we see little chance of Putin being arrested”.
– What are the main obstacles? –
First, like the US and China, Russia is not a member of the ICC.
The ICC was able to bring charges against Putin because Ukraine had accepted its jurisdiction over the situation, even though Kiev is not a member either.
But Moscow has immediately dismissed the warrant for Putin’s arrest.
Russia will not extradite its citizens under any circumstances.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia “does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and therefore the court’s decision is invalid from a legal point of view”.
In fact, Russia signed the court’s founding Rome Statute but did not ratify it as a member, then withdrew its signature in 2016 on Putin’s orders after the ICC launched an investigation into the 2008 Georgia war.
Cecily Rose, assistant professor of public international law at Leiden University, said: “Barring a regime change in Russia, it is unlikely that Putin will end up in the dock for war crimes.”
– Has the prime suspect been brought to justice? –
However, the ICC’s Khan said that history has seen several high-ranking figures end up in the dock on war crimes charges.
“There are too many examples of people who think they are not protected by the law … they find themselves in court,” he said.
“Look at Milosevic or Charles Taylor or Karadzic or Mladic.”
The International Criminal Court convicted former Liberian warlord-turned-President Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2012.
In 2006, former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic died in his cell in The Hague during his genocide trial at the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was finally arrested in 2008 and sentenced to genocide by a court, and his military leader Ratkom Radić was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison.
– Are there other options? –
The ICC cannot try suspects in absentia, but Khan said the court has “other structures” to move the case forward.
He cited a recent case in which he asked a judge to hold a hearing to confirm the charges against Joseph Kony – the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army who launched a bloody insurgency in Uganda – even though Kony Still at large.
Khan added: “This procedure may apply to any other case – including the current case involving Putin.”
(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)