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Putin unlikely to face war crimes trial but position grows more tenuous, experts say

It is unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be handcuffed any time soon after the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for him, but former US officials and war crimes prosecutors say the former KGB agent’s world will change significantly after the announcement. Decreased.

Experts said the court’s charge on Friday, that he oversaw the war crime of illegal abduction and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia, shut down his status as an international pariah and his ability to travel outside Russia. severely limited.

Todd Buchwald, who served as the State Department’s special coordinator for global criminal justice in the Obama and Trump administrations, said, “The result is he’s not going to travel to any place he thinks he’s going to visit.” They can be arrested.”

Although the ICC has no police force of its own, it has “cordoned off” warrants from the 123 countries that signed the law creating the court, as Putin could face arrest if he visited any of them. Take risks, said Buchwald, now adjunct lecturer in law at George Washington University Law School.

Under the law, those countries are obliged to issue arrest warrants, regardless of the rank of the accused. But most governments also follow an international legal principle that heads of state enjoy legal immunity from other courts.

And it’s unclear how many governments will be willing to comply and arrest the president of a nuclear-armed, oil-rich power with a history of seeking revenge and carrying out assassinations.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, rejected the court’s findings. “We do not recognize this court, we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court. This is how we treat it,” he said in a Telegram post on Friday.

But Putin has to take into account the danger of being arrested and taken to The Hague in the Netherlands, where the court is located.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit
Russian President Vladimir Putin.Sergey Boblev/Kremlin Pool/Sputnik via AP file)

The warrant “puts the pressure on any future Russian government”, said Wayne Jordash, a British lawyer who is leading teams of local and international prosecutors and investigators in Ukraine. “If they want to normalize relations with the international community, there is an easy way to do that: Hand him over for trial,” he said.

There is precedent for a country to turn its leader over to a court for war crimes.

The arrest warrant issued in 1999 for then-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic by the UN Yugoslav Tribunal for war crimes committed in Bosnia “became the vehicle used to get him out of Serbia,” said Dermot Grom, who led the investigation. Led and Milosevic’s trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

“As more and more Serb civilians and members of the military grew tired of his iron grip on power and the ruin of the lives of young Serb men in neighboring Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, his support crumbled and in June 2001 he was arrested .. Serb authorities and Hague were removed on the arrest warrant where he was tried for international crimes,” said Grom, a Penn State Dickinson law professor.

Milosevic died before the trial was finished, and the limitations of the ICC are well known. Former Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been indicted but never arrested in any of the countries he has visited.

But the court has indicted 10 people, including Thomas Lubanga, convicted of war crimes in 2012 for using child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And there is hope that the warrant for Putin could reduce the extreme violence and brutality in Ukraine, where Russia has also paid a heavy price since its February 2022 invasion, with some estimating that the country killed some 200,000 in the war’s first year. soldiers were lost.

Experts said the move shows Russia that international prosecutors are closely monitoring the regime’s actions on the battlefield and that some Russian officials may think twice before carrying out orders that give them legal protection. can put you in jeopardy.

Buchwald said this “puts pressure” on those around Putin to “distance themselves” from him.



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