US President Joe Biden welcomes ICC war crime arrest warrant against Putin

It remains unclear as to how the warrant could affect Putin as Russia is not a member nor a donor to the ICC

US President Joe Biden welcomes ICC war crime arrest warrant against Putin

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

United States President Joe Biden has welcomed the International Criminal Court's (ICC) issuance of an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin over war crime allegations.

Justifying the arrest warrant, Biden said: "He's clearly committed war crimes".

"Well, I think it's justified," Biden added, referring to the warrant. "But the question is: it's not recognised internationally by us either. But I think it makes a very strong point."

"There is no doubt that Russia is committing war crimes and atrocities in Ukraine, and we have been clear that those responsible must be held accountable. This was a decision the ICC prosecutor reached independently based on the facts before him." a US State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

War-stricken Ukraine welcomed the ICC announcement, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailing it as a pivotal decision that provides “historic accountability” for crimes committed against Ukraine by Russia.

Zelensky’s Chief of Staff, Andry Yermak, said on Telegram on Friday that the arrest warrant issued for Putin was “just the beginning”.

Russian opposition activists have also welcomed the decision. Ivan Zhdanov, a close ally of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has tweeted that it was "a symbolic step" but an important one.

Neither the US, Ukraine, Russia or China are members of the ICC, which is based in the Hague in the Netherlands, and has been called the “world’s first permanent international criminal court”. The ICC has 123 member nations globally, but so far, the court has issued only 10 convictions.

Based on an international treaty, called the Rome Statute, the court can prosecute individuals on four offences: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

As the court does not conduct trials in absentia, any Russian officials charged would either have to be handed over by Moscow or arrested outside of Russia.

The ICC on Friday accused Putin of unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children. The Hague-based international court which prosecutes those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide stated that Putin is responsible for "unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation".

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes, (i) for having committed the acts directly, jointly with others and/or through others ..., and (ii) for his failure to exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control, pursuant to superior responsibility," read the ICC's statement.

Moreover, the ICC also issued a warrant for Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, for compliance in the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan confirmed to AFP that arrest warrant obligates the court’s 123 member states to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague for trial if he "sets foot on their territory".

"The arrest warrant is based upon forensic evidence, scrutiny and what's been said by those two individuals. The evidence we presented focused on crimes against children. Children are the most vulnerable part of our society," said Khan.

However, it remains unclear as to how the warrant could affect Putin as Russia is not a member nor a donor to the ICC.

Putin approved an order to withdraw the nation from the process of joining the ICC in 2016 even after Russia signed the Rome statute, which governs the ICC.

Thus, it is unlikely that the Russian President will be manifestly impacted by the arrest warrant as ICC's jurisdiction only apply to its member nations.

Moscow rejected the warrant on Friday. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, said the court has “no meaning” for the country, “including from a “legal point of view”.

The warrant came hours after Chinese leader Xi Jinping announced a Moscow visit and more fighter jets for Kyiv's forces were also announced.

The Russia-Ukraine war entered its 388th day on Saturday as Russia continues its offensive in the neighbouring state. Kremlin has denied the allegations and denounced the warrants as "outrageous".

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