The beginning of the end for Putin and other involved


Marko Holovach

Associate, Attorney-at-Law

ECHR case-law,
White Collar Crime

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued the arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova for the war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer of children from Ukraine to russia. It might be a significant development in applying international law and protecting human rights in Ukraine suffering from russian aggression. 

The ICC is a permanent international criminal court with jurisdiction over serious crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC and set out the legal framework for its operation, including the criteria for the ICC to consider cases. Article 8 of the Rome Statute deals with war crimes and specifically lists unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians as war crimes under certain circumstances. Given the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova based on these provisions, the ICC has evidence that these individuals are responsible for war crimes under international law. 

Enforcement of the ICC's arrest warrant may be challenging, however, as russia is not a party to the Rome Statute and does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. It is unlikely that russia would voluntarily surrender Putin or Lvova-Belova to the ICC, and the ICC does not have its police force to enforce its orders in russia. 

Therefore, it is unclear what the practical consequences of the ICC's arrest warrant will be. However, it will have a diplomatic and political impact and pressure russia to address the allegations of war crimes.  

What is essential is that the arrest warrant has indisputable moral weight, putting Putin and Lvova-Belova in the same ranks as:  
  • Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the deposed president of Sudan, who was accused of atrocities in Darfur;  
  • Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader imprisoned for abuses during the Balkans war;  
  • the Nazis tried at Nuremberg after World War II. 

A mere issuance of an arrest warrant for a sitting head of state, such as Vladimir Putin, by an international court is an extraordinary development as first persons of the country usually pretend to enjoy immunity against criminal proceedings. The issued arrest warrant may have several diplomatic and political implications, both for russia and the international community. First of all, issuing the arrest warrant could further strain russia's relations with the international community. It will increase isolation for russia on the global stage and have knock-on effects on russia's diplomatic and economic relations with other countries.  

The impact of the ICC's arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova will depend on how russia and the international community respond to the arrest warrant and how the situation develops over time. We would like to believe in the opinion of Stephen Rapp, former Ambassador-at-Large who headed the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the State Department, who said that “this makes Putin a pariah. If he travels, he risks arrest. This never goes away.” Moreover, he said, russia cannot have international sanctions lifted without complying with the court’s warrants. Mr Rapp said he believed Putin would eventually end up in The Hague, where other accused war criminals were tried — some, like Mr Milosevic, by U.N. tribunals that preceded the ICC “Otherwise, Putin dies with this hanging over his head”.  
For business, the ICC arrest warrants for Putin is another solid message to cease existing businesses and refrain from starting new with or in russia. Contributing to the budget (through taxes or otherwise) of a country headed by a person accused by the ICC of war crimes obviously cannot be considered responsible business conduct. In the World where, according to the UN votings, most countries accuse russian atrocities in Ukraine, such a cynical “business as usual” approach will not be accepted by customers and stakeholders. 

Author: Marko Holovach

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