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What is the International Criminal Court, at the origin of an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin?

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For just under 24 hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for war crimes in particular. Created in 1998, this body is responsible for judging the perpetrators of “the most serious crimes affecting the entire international community”.

The announcement was called “historic” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while former Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev compared it to “toilet paper”. Late Friday afternoon, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, allegedly responsible for the “war crime of illegal deportation of population (children) and transfer illegal transfer of population (children) from the occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation”. At the origin of this war in Ukraine, which has been raging for more than a year now, the master of the Kremlin is therefore now in the crosshairs of the highest international criminal court.

A skill that cannot be exercised in all countries of the world

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Concretely, this Court, based in The Hague in the Netherlands, is the only one empowered to try the perpetrators of international crimes. Created during the Rome Convention of July 17, 1998 before its entry into force on July 1, 2002, it is made up of 123 States, including France, but its jurisdiction cannot be exercised anywhere in the world. The ICC can simply deal with crimes committed by nationals or on the territory of States Parties, which is not the case with Russia, or with States that are not members of the Court but which recognize its jurisdiction, which is, on the other hand, the case of Ukraine. The States Parties are responsible for electing the 18 judges who sit there for a nine-year term.

In detail, the ICC rules in cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or crimes of aggression. In theory, it cannot take the place of a State to dispense justice but can intervene in the event that the latter would not have been able to do so. And can therefore issue arrest warrants against leaders suspected of having been guilty of one or more facts mentioned above. “An international arrest warrant is a warrant to arrest the individual and bring him before the jurisdiction which requested this arrest warrant. The immunity traditionally accepted by Heads of State in their country does not exist more here”, indicated the lawyer William Julié, specialist in international law, in the columns of the Parisian.

Putin does not risk much in the immediate future

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In the past, the former Serbian warlord Ratko Mladic was also the subject of an arrest warrant which led him to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Nicknamed “the butcher of the Balkans”, he was accused of genocide for the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 which claimed the lives of 8,000 Muslims in Bosnia. His life sentence was confirmed in June 2021. But when it comes to Vladimir Putin, the outcome could be a little different, as Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC on its territory. Furthermore, the international body has no enforcement force capable of enforcing the arrest warrants it issues.

Consequently, at the moment T, it is very difficult to imagine the Russian president being brought before international justice in the short term, all the more so if he does not venture into a member country of the ICC. If this were the case, on the other hand, the country in question would have the obligation to arrest him.

Source: Europe1

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