Putin could be tried for alleged war crimes, says ICC chief prosecutor


The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be tried for alleged crimes committed during Russia’s war in Ukraine, he told CNN on Friday, despite arguments from Moscow that it is not subject to the decisions of the court.

In an interview with CNN’s Clarissa Ward, Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan spoke about the historic trials of Nazi war criminals, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević and former Liberian leader Charles Taylor, among others.

“All of them were powerful and powerful individuals and yet they ended up in courtrooms,” he said.

The ICC on Friday issued arrest warrants for Putin and Russian official Maria Lvova-Belova over an alleged plan to deport Ukrainian children to Russia – a practice the Russian government has defended as saving them while denying that evictions are forced.

The decision has already made history by making Putin the first head of state of a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to receive an arrest warrant, Khan pointed out.

Created to try genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes, the ICC is known as the world’s “court of last resort”. Although 123 countries are parties to the treaty that created the court, there are significant exceptions, including Russia, the United States, Ukraine and China. Russia withdrew from the ICC treaty under a directive signed by Putin in 2016.

The Kremlin on Friday rejected the arrest warrants as “unacceptable”, arguing that they are not subject to ICC rulings.

“Russia, like a number of states, does not recognize the jurisdiction of this court and therefore any such decision is null and void for the Russian Federation from the point of view of law,” tweeted spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday.

But Khan said it didn’t matter. “Article 27 of the Rome Statute makes it very clear that an individual’s official function is irrelevant to the jurisdiction of the Court. The court’s independent judges also deemed it appropriate” to issue the warrant, he added.

The court does not conduct trials in absentia, so indicted Russian officials would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside Russia. But ICC judges could still allow confirmation hearings — where judges assess evidence before a trial — to go ahead without them, Khan said.

The chief prosecutor also acknowledged the speed with which he filed a complaint against Russia’s actions in Ukraine – remarkable for a court that has often been criticized for its bureaucracy.

“I think the ICC has been pedestrian in some ways and we need to step up,” Khan said.

He said he was traveling to Bangladesh to investigate crimes against the Rohingya in February when he decided the Ukraine case could not wait.

“Based on information reaching me from multiple sources, we needed to move forward. … When I returned to The Hague on February 28, I made it clear that I was asking for an investigation. And I I also urged States to refer the matter to my office as this would expedite our ability to move forward and investigate.

The dismissals poured in. “In 48 hours, 39 States Parties have reported the situation in Ukraine to my office, and there are now 43 from different parts of the world – from Japan, Latin America and Europe. So that represents a third of all state parties to the court,” he said.

“The simple reality is that these crimes were not covered up,” Khan also said.

Lvova-Belova, Russia’s children’s rights commissioner, on Friday rejected the ICC’s arrest warrant for her, saying it was “great” that the international community recognized her work in removing children from areas. of war, the Russian news agency TASS reported on Friday.

“It is great that the international community has appreciated the work to help the children of our country, that we do not leave them in war zones, that we kidnap them, that we create good conditions for them, that we surrounded by loving, caring people,” she told reporters, according to TASS.

Lvova-Belova regularly travels to Russian-occupied Ukraine, and the Russian government has boasted of personally escorting planes full of children from the country. Putin has given Lvova-Belova the power to use unspecified “additional measures” to identify children who lack parental care in the four Ukrainian regions he claims to have annexed.

UNICEF, the UN children’s organization, has said that “adoption should never take place during or immediately after emergencies”, and that during upheavals, children separated from their parents can be considered orphans. The UN further considers the forcible transfer of another country’s population within or across its borders as a war crime.

Thousands of Ukrainian children have been forcibly deported by Russia, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who welcomed the ICC’s decision in his Friday night address.

“As part of the criminal proceedings investigated by our security forces, more than 16,000 forced expulsions of Ukrainian children by the occupier have already been recorded. But the actual and total number of deportees may be much higher,” he said.

“Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the top leader of the terrorist state,” Zelensky added, referring to Putin.

Despite the abundance of referrals that Khan says led him to open the case, the prosecutor stressed that the presumption of innocence still applies.

“I would just encourage anyone in any situation in court who has been charged and is a suspect: if you think you are innocent, turn yourself in, clear your name.”


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