How Likely is it that the International Criminal Court will Try Putin?

The International Criminal Court issued Russian President Vladimir Putin an arrest warrant for a possible war crime. Is it possible to see the Russian leader behind bars?.

Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin

Photo: Presidential Executive Office of Russia

LatinAmerican Post | David García Pedraza

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Leer en español: ¿Qué tan probable es que Putin sea juzgado por la Corte Penal Internacional?

As the destruction in Eastern Europe increases, so do Russian diplomatic feuds, this time the International Criminal Court joins in issuing an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova (a senior Kremlin official) for the alleged deportation of children Ukrainians to Russian territory.

According to Kyiv, more than 16 thousand infants would be deported by Russia. For its part, Moscow alleges that there have been humanitarian missions to welcome minors in safe environments (referring to Russian territory). Karim Khan, a chief prosecutor of the ICC, has stated that instead, there have been deportations of hundreds of children who were in orphanages and care centers in conflict zones. He also emphasized that the infants have been forcibly sent to Russia and are provided with altered IDs.

For her part, the ICC has singled out Lbova-Belova, Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights in Russia, for giving deported children up for adoption to Russian families without due process.

With this rivalry between the ICC and the Russian government, the Investigative Committee of Russia has ordered an investigation of Khan and three judges from the same organization for illegal decisions against Putin and Lvova by issuing an arrest warrant against them. Although they are 'passing the buck' between one and the other, is there any possibility of Putin attending the ICC courtrooms?

What the History of the ICC has Taught

Since its creation in 1998, thanks to the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court is the guarantor body for prosecuting individuals who commit war crimes and serious human rights violations.

The great victories of this body were the arrest of Slobodan Milošević in 2001, former president of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, accused of war crimes in Kosovo, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition to the ethnic Albanian cleansing in Kosovar territory and his alleged tolerance towards a Muslim massacre in the Republika Srpska. Milošević was the first European head of state to be accused of genocide similarly. However, in 2006 he died of natural causes in his cell before completing his judicial process.

Another president the ICC detained was Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, accused of murder, rape, and use of children for military purposes, in addition to being blamed by Sierra Leone for arming the rebels of that country during the civil war between 1991 and 2002. In this case, the ICC, backed by the UN, sentenced him to 50 yearsHe is serving his sentence in the UK and has become the first former head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.

In these two cases, the ICC could, at least, detain the two leaders since both Liberia and Serbia recognize the Rome Statute and have signed and ratified it. However, what about countries that do not recognize the ICC?

When Justice has Limits

Just as there are organizations widely recognized at the international level, such as the UN, and regionally such as the OAS or NATO, others do not enjoy such wide recognition as is the case of the International Criminal Court.

The ICC is recognized in much of Latin America, except for Cuba and Nicaragua, Western Europe, the Holy See, and much of Africa. Even so, almost the entire Asian continent, half of Africa, several Pacific nations, nearly all Eastern Europe, and the United States do not recognize or ratify the ICC.

This legal limitation impedes detaining, prosecuting, and convicting an individual who belongs to a country that does not recognize this Court and of which there is excellent suspicion or evidence of war crimes and genocide. Thus, the ICC cannot prosecute Vladimir Putin since Russia has yet to ratify the Rome Statute. In addition, Putin has absolute immunity for being the nation's president.

This immunity also does not allow Putin to face trial for his actions. However, history has taught that several former presidents have been tried in their countries for crimes committed during their terms, such as the Egyptian Hosni Mubarak, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala. It could be hope, especially for the West.

It may interest you: Iraq: two decades after an invasion that should not have happened

Have there Been any more Flags since The Hague?

Currently, the ICC hears cases mainly from Africa, Bangladesh, and Myanmar and conducts, to the extent permitted, investigations from countries in the Middle East and Latin America. This could mean that developing countries have justice as a method of reparation, yet the superpowers evade this international body.

One of the events that have been most condemned has been the invasion and subsequent war in Iraq in 2003 (of which only one report could be written). However, it is not possible since its most significant contributor, the United States, has yet to ratify the Rome Statute, so much so that at the time, President George W. Bush withdrew the signature of this document, which he helped draft. Neither did former President Barack Obama have any real intention of resigning.

However, Washington welcomes the action of the International Criminal Court against Russia and its issuance of an arrest warrant against Putin for crimes committed in Ukraine.

The nations that contribute the most to the war, regardless of the side, such as the United States, Russia, Israel, and Iran, and those that maintain a certain indifference, but are faithfully relevant, such as China, India, and Turkey, may believe that their national interests are at stake, on top of justice, reparation, and peace that society so lacks.

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