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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants over war in Ukraine

International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants over war in Ukraine


Arrest warrants issued for Vladimir Putin and Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued two arrest warrants in the context of the situation in Ukraine on 17 March, against President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova.

The ICC alleges that both of the accused are responsible for the ‘unlawful deportation’ of children and the ‘unlawful transfer’ of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia, which falls into the definition of a ‘war crime of unlawful deportation and transfer’ pursuant to Article 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute.

On the basis of evidence collected and analysed by the office of Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC, who submitted the applications for the arrest warrants on 22 February, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber of judges considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of a population and that of unlawful transfer of a population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children. 

Prosecutor Khan explained in a statement on the issuance of the arrest warrants that, “Incidents identified by my Office include the deportation of at least hundreds of children taken from orphanages and children’s care homes. Many of these children, we allege, have since been given for adoption in the Russian Federation. The law was changed in the Russian Federation, through Presidential decrees issued by President Putin, to expedite the conferral of Russian citizenship, making it easier for them to be adopted by Russian families.”

The ICC notice includes further details on the alleged crimes committed on Ukrainian occupied territory from at least 24 February 2022, but notes that the warrants are private in order to protect victims and witnesses and safeguard the integrity of the investigation.

Commenting on the ICC’s announcement, Thomas Garner, Partner and specialist extradition lawyer at UK law firm Fladgate, said: “The issuance of an arrest warrant by the ICC is symbolically significant for the international community but is unlikely to lead to a prosecution. Russia is not a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute and the ICC has no jurisdiction to enforce the warrant in Russia. Whilst the decision is not meaningless as Moscow have claimed, the ICC lacks the teeth to enforce the warrant unless Putin voluntarily submits to its jurisdiction or travels to a state prepared to arrest him.”