March 23, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Is it possible that Vladimir Putin will ever stand trial

Yesterday, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. A court in The Hague accused him of kidnapping and deporting Ukrainian children. However, the practical and logistical challenges in investigating such a case are enormous, is a trial possible?

The United Nations believes there is enough evidence to accuse the Russian leader of war crimes in Ukraine. But is it possible in reality to arrest the President of Russia? Currently, the Russian leader has unquestioned power in his homeland, and therefore the Kremlin has no prospect of handing him over to the ICC. And while the president remains in Russia, he is not threatened with arrest. Theoretically, he could be detained if he leaves the country. But, given the fact that the freedom of movement of the head of state is severely limited by international sanctions, it is unlikely that he will travel to a country that wants to put him on trial.

After the beginning of the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, writes BBC, Putin has visited only eight countries. Seven of them are part of the Russian “near abroad”, that is, the former republics of the Soviet Union before its collapse at the end of 1991. The only state that does not fall under this category is Iran, which the Russian leader visited in July last year to meet with the supreme leader of the theocracy, Ali Khamenei. But since Iran has helped Russia in the war effort by supplying drones and other military equipment, any return visit to Tehran is unlikely to put Mr. Putin in any danger.

Can Putin stand trial? There are at least two major obstacles to this:

  1. Russia does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, which was created in 2002 by a treaty known as the Rome Statute. This law establishes that each state is obliged to exercise its own criminal jurisdiction over persons responsible for international crimes. The ICC can only intervene if the State is unable or unwilling to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. In total, 123 states agreed to comply with it, but there are exceptions, including Russia. Some, including Ukraine, have signed the treaty but have not ratified it. Full list of countries that have signed the Rome Statute Here.
  2. Although trials sometimes take place without the defendant in the dock, this is not an option here – the ICC does not hold trials in absentia.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden said that the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin was justified because the Russian president had committed war crimes, quotes The New York Times:

“I think it (the ICC warrant) is justified. Putin has clearly committed war crimes.”

Biden said that the decision of the court in The Hague to issue a warrant is a “very strong position”, but noted that the United States is not a member of the ICC. A comment from the Russian embassy in Washington, circulated on Friday, said: writes TASS:

“We have taken note of statements by administration officials about the alleged validity of the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Ombudsman for Children Maria Lvova-Belova. For the sake of their own geopolitical interests, they are supporting the unprecedented legal orgy unleashed by the ICC, knowing full well that Russia, like the United States, does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. Allowing themselves to make unacceptable statements against the Russian leader, the American authorities deliberately keep silent about their own atrocities in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya and Vietnam. Moreover, in an attempt to protect its citizens from international persecution, the United States even take drastic measures.”

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