The International Criminal Court in The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for the “unlawful deportation” of Ukrainian children.
The court’s provisional judges ruled that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that each accused bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, disadvantage of Ukrainian children. ”.
The judges considered issuing classified warrants, but decided that making them public “might help prevent the commission of further crimes”.
Moscow has said it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC.
“The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel. “Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and bears no obligations under it.”
Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak welcomed the news social mediaadding, “It’s just the beginning.”
Wayne Jordash, a Kyiv-based international human rights lawyer and managing partner of Global Rights Compliance, agreed that the arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova were probably the first of many.
“More will come in the coming months. This should be some kind of warning shot across the bow. This is the prosecutor just getting something on the roll,” Jordash said. ICC prosecutor Karim Khan began investigating war crimes in Ukraine more than a year ago.
The Russian leadership has been completely open about taking Ukrainian children to Russia and placing them in camps or giving them up for adoption by Russian families. On February 16, Lvova-Belova appeared on television to tell Putin about the program and reveal that she herself had “adopted” a 15-year-old child from Mariupol, the city in southeastern Ukraine that was destroyed and occupied by Russian forces.
“Now I know what it means to be a mother of a child from Donbas. It’s hard, but we absolutely love each other. I think we can handle anything,” Lvova-Belova told Putin at the meeting at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence near Moscow.
The televised conversation may have been a factor in Khan’s decision to issue his first requests for arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova.
“There is a clear case against Putin here,” Jordash said. So I think it’s good to see the prosecution focusing on children’s rights. I think this is what international prosecutors have failed to do in the last 20 years, so this is a good focus as it is one of the worst crimes to be committed.”
Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch said:
“With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and has taken the first step towards ending the impunity that has encouraged perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long.
“The arrest warrants send a clear signal that giving orders to commit serious crimes against civilians or tolerating them can lead to a cell in The Hague. The court orders are a wake-up call to others who are abusive or cover up that their day in court is coming, regardless of their rank or position.”