Implications of the Issuance of Putin’s Arrest Warrant by the ICC

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Reading Time: 3 minutes


On March 17, 2023, the international community took an essential step towards justice when the Second Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova. This happened as part of the investigation into the situation in Ukraine, initiated by the court on February 28, 2022, the 5th day after the start of the full-scale Russian aggression. The arrest warrant for Putin and Lvova-Belova (Children’s Rights Commissioner for the President of Russia) was issued based on the request of the prosecutor on February 22, 2023.

What crime was the arrest warrant issued for?

The issuance of an arrest warrant by the pre-trial chamber means that the court has seen reasonable signs of guilt in the actions of both persons. In particular, war crimes: illegal deportation of the population (children) and illegal transfer of children from the occupied territories of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. This crime is covered in Article 8, Clauses 2 a (vii) and b (viii) of the Statute of the Court. War crimes, together with genocide, crimes against humanity and aggression, constitute international crimes over which the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court extends.

Ukraine has repeatedly stated that since February 24, 2022, more than 13 thousand children have been illegally taken from Ukraine. According to representatives of Ukraine, Russia has a clear plan to destroy Ukraine and the Ukrainian identity. The illegal deportation of children, their transfer from the occupied territories of Ukraine to Russia, the simplification of the adoption process and the granting of citizenship of the Russian state are clear examples of the above-mentioned claim.

Prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant, there was an expectation that the case of child deportation would be brought before the court due to the legal and moral gravity of this action. However, hardly anyone expected the court to issue such a warrant directly against the Russian president.

What is the significance of the warrant?

The arrest warrant bears both legal, as well as political and moral significance. First and foremost, this document is a huge step forward. It is a clear example of the prosecutor’s courage, proving that the court is not afraid to carry out its primary function: detecting and punishing the most serious international crimes.

In addition, this document is of great importance for the victims and eyewitnesses of the crime. They already see that the general concept of international responsibility has taken a tangible form.

However, another critical aspect of the court’s arrest warrant against the country’s first person is that according to international law, heads of state and government and foreign ministers enjoy personal immunity in a foreign country. This excludes their accountability. The International Criminal Court is the only body capable of overcoming this obstacle. In the Al-Bashir case, the Court’s Appeals Chamber found that “There is neither State practice nor opinio juris that would support the existence of Head of State immunity under customary international law vis-à-vis an international court.

Although the court has issued arrest warrants for heads of state before, however, since the end of World War II, it is the first time that a court has issued such a warrant against a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a head of a non-member state. This fact reinforces the idea that no one can stand above international justice, and the membership of the Security Council will not serve as a shield to avoid responsibility.

This decision also significantly reduces Putin’s freedom of action in the international arena. In particular, the status of a suspect in such a grave crime excludes the continuation of the “business as usual” principle.

The obligation to fully cooperate with the court also applies to the 123 states participating in the Rome Statute (Article 86 of the Statute). This obliges them to carry out appropriate procedures at the national level and to cooperate with the court, to fulfil all requests (Article 88 of the Statute). This means that if President Putin finds himself in the territory of one of the member states of the court, that state will enter into negotiations with the court to arrest and hand over this person to it. From this point of view, the prospect of Putin attending the BRICS summit in Pretoria in August 2023 is significant.

Expectations ahead

It is unlikely that the court will be able to bring President Putin and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights of the Russian Federation, Lvova-Belova, before the court in the nearest future. However, the scope of arrest warrants is much broader. In fact, it delegitimizes Putin’s rule and narrows his scope of action. This will likely reduce his effectiveness as a representative of Russia’s interests at the international level. This will affect Putin’s domestic image and support.

It should be noted that these orders have already impacted Russian rhetoric. In an interview with TASS on April 21, the Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations said: “We wanted to protect them [children] from the danger that may arise from military actions.” And when asked about the return of children to Ukraine, he answered: “When the conditions are safe, of course, why not.”. This indicates that Russia has already felt the pressure and discomfort. And this is just the beginning of the long legal road ahead of him. 

Tina Goletiani

Associate Professor at Ilia State University


Last News

Welcome Back!

Login to your account below

Retrieve your password

Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.

Add New Playlist