The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant on Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin on allegations of war crimes. His administration’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alexeyevna Lvova-Belova, was also named in an arrest warrant by the court. Both are accused of acting in violation of the Rome Statue by either directly taking part in a program to remove Ukrainian people, specifically children, from their home country. At least 6,000 children are believed to have been taken from Ukraine and sent to Russian camps, many of whom were then readied for adoption by Russian families, or given military training, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. State Department.
The Pre-Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Friday it was acting on allegations filed by prosecutors late last month. It said that, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.” The ICC said the allegations currently date back to February 24, 2022, the date Russia intensified its invasion of Ukraine.
“It is forbidden by international law for occupying powers to transfer civilians from the territory they live in to other territories. Children enjoy special protection under the Geneva Convention,” said ICC President Piotr Hofmański. “The judges have reviewed the information and evidence submitted by the prosecutor, and determined that there are credible allegations against these persons for the alleged crimes.”
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes,” the court said. It specified that the 70-year-old president may have violated different articles of the Rome Statute by either acting directly or jointly with others, but also for his “failure to exercise control” over civilians and military personnel who committed such acts.
Lvova-Belova also bears responsibility for the situation in her role as the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the court said. Lvova-Belova has held her position for about two years. A few months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified in 2022, she was accused of having a direct role in removing orphaned children from Mariupol and placing them in a camp in Rostov Oblast, which is just across the Ukrainian border in Russia.
Last month, Putin praised Lyova-Belova for her work overseeing the transportation of children from parts of Ukraine to Russia. He referred to the Ukrainian children as “our very small citizens.”
“The most disgusting thing is that this process is being supervised directly by the Russian Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, who initiated the ‘simplification’ of the procedure for granting citizenship to orphaned children in Ukraine,” said Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to the mayor’s office of Mariupol, in an interview with Ukrainska Pravda.
The ICC Chamber that considered the case initially wanted to protect victims and witnesses by keeping the warrants secret and not publicly revealing them. The ICC also said this would have had the added benefit of helping to safeguard the investigative process. However, the court also considered that “the present situation is allegedly ongoing,” and said that, “public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes.”
The contents of the warrants will remain secret for the time being, Hofmański said.
The Rome Statute is a treaty signed by 123 countries to establish the ICC. It also defined the court’s jurisdiction over criminal acts, specifically war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and crime of aggression. Russia signed the treaty in 2000 two years after it was adopted during a UN conference in Rome. Sixteen years later, the country notified the UN Secretary-General that it decided not to become a party to the treaty. This was after the ICC condemned the Russian Federation for its initial invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
A spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “Russia bears no responsibility to the ICC,” as it decided not to be a party to the Rome Statute, according to newswire ANP.