The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin. Is it legal and what are the risks for the Russian president? Can they really arrest him? Will he be prosecuted?
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The BBC spoke to Gleb Bogush and Kevin Jon Heller, international law experts at the University of Copenhagen. Below are the main questions and answers about this case is cited.
How is the issuance of an arrest warrant for Putin by the ICC compatible with the immunity of the current president of Russia?
From a legal point of view, there is no obstacle to the International Criminal Court issuing a warrant for his arrest: ICC member states are obliged to execute the warrant. And if Putin comes to their territory, they should take him to court. But the legal obligations may be different, the actions of the state may be different, experts say.
The ICJ’s position for such situations was previously set out in the decision of the Appeals Chamber in the case of the then President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who was accused of mass killings. According to him, the head of state will not have the right of immunity before the international court, and the issues of cooperation between individual countries will have to be decided by those countries themselves.
But in the framework of interstate relations, heads of state have personal immunity, that is, as long as he remains in office and recognizes him as the head of state, another state cannot arrest him. That is, it will always be a matter of time, and now it is almost impossible to enforce the decision of the CJSC.
What should the government of that country do if a sitting head of state comes to a country that, on the one hand, has obligations to the ICC and, on the other hand, has obligations related to immunity?
No decision was reached on this issue.
Although there have been arrest warrants issued by the ICC in history, there is no precedent for bringing a sitting head of state to court. But the suspect voluntarily appeared before the ICC twice – these were the president and vice president of Kenya.
“Therefore, it is theoretically possible for Putin to voluntarily appear in court along with any other suspects. “This is not a more fantastic option than the possibility of his arrest,” Bogush believes.
That is, if Putin goes to an international forum in a country that recognizes the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, will he not be arrested?
It will be decided by the state itself.
Members of the Rome Statute that have accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (including, for example, Tajikistan) have the obligation to execute a warrant – to arrest a suspect and bring him to court. But there is no tool in the IMF itself to force the state to fulfill this obligation.
The risks for Putin are still there, as countries have an obligation to enforce the ICC’s arrest warrant. But, for example, more than 10 years ago, after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the then president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who was accused of genocide, he participated in events in various countries, including events in countries that are members of the Rome Statute, and in African Union summits. No one has arrested him so far.
It goes without saying that it is unlikely that Putin will be arrested and that he himself will go to “dangerous” countries. But according to international law, a country that is a member of the Rome Statute will have to cooperate with the ICC.
If Maria Lvova-Belova goes to the country where she belongs, will she be arrested?
Russia does not recognize the International Committee of the Red Cross, so is it possible to prosecute its representative?
But no one doubts that in Russia, for example, a citizen of the Netherlands accused by the Russian authorities can be arrested, Bogush reminds.
If one country has such a right, the 123 member states of the Rome Statute, to which Ukraine transferred its jurisdiction, can do the same, he believes.
In this case, the crime was committed on the territory of Ukraine, Ukraine can issue a sentence for it. At the same time, Ukraine voluntarily transferred its powers and rights to the international court on its own initiative. It is not necessary to be a member of the International Criminal Court.
So what was the need for an XJS warrant now?
Heller said that the significance of this ICC decision is not the possibility of Putin being brought to court, but the symbolism of the decision.
It seems that the capture of Putin in the near future is a highly imaginary scenario. Even if he visits “friendly” countries that do not submit him to the international court. According to Heller, however, his movement around the world will be more complicated than it is now.
“Issuing a warrant for the head of state’s arrest is a bold step with consequences,” he said confidently. – I think that Putin will now have the status of a pariah, at least among Western countries. This warrant may also have an effect on the readiness of the South to work with Putin.”
“This guarantees impunity for insecurity [президентни] it should not be considered as an exemption from responsibility, – notes Bogush. – There is only a procedural conflict related to the immunity of the head of state and the jurisdiction of the ICC. At the same time, there is a universal prohibition of international crimes. The International Court of Justice is simply an agent of humanity, holding accountable those who violate basic norms by using this infrastructure. Immunity cannot make a person free from his control.