The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday (17) for crimes related to the deportation and illegal transfer of children from Ukraine during the war. The Kremlin rejected the ruling saying it did not recognize the court’s jurisdiction, while in Ukraine the move was deemed “historic”. At the same time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is making an official visit to Moscow in a gesture of strengthening the partnership between the two countries.
The ICC judges considered that they had sufficient reason to believe that Putin is personally responsible for the crimes of deportation and illegal transfer of children from Ukraine during the war. A similar arrest warrant was issued for the Commissioner of the President of the Russian Federation for the Rights of the Child, Maria Lvova-Belova. The reason for the accusation goes back to May 2022, when Putin signed a decree on a simplification procedure for orphans from Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship.
Regarding the real chances of the arrest warrant against Putin being carried out, there is a consensus among specialists that this is very unlikely and that the decision has a much more symbolic weight. But there may be long-term consequences.
That’s what Ivan Pavlov, the lawyer and founder of the Russian project for the defense of human rights “Pervyi Otdel”, claims. To the Brazil in fact, the jurist points out that members of the Russian government with a mandate issued by the ICC can be arrested in countries that have ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Another scenario that could make the arrest warrant feasible would be the referral of the process through a new government in Russia, in a long-term perspective.
“It’s a symbolic decision, but one that could lead to real consequences. This is a long distance game, it’s a long-term game. Of course, considering now that Putin is going to appear in The Hague on his own or that some subordinate is going to carry out this mandate is probably naive”, says the lawyer.
However, Pavlov notes that the ICC decision sets a precedent that contributes to the weakening of Putin’s government. “Gradually there will be wear and tear, and the moment will come when the situation will change and the regime will be shaken, it will be weakened, so there will be a window of possibilities, including to carry out this mandate”, he completes.
Despite the fragility of the arrest warrant being actually executed, the ICC action already has practical implications for President Putin. In theory, all countries (there are 123 in total) that have ratified the Rome Statute and recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court can carry out the warrant in the event of a visit by the President of Russia to their country.
Almost all countries in Europe, all states in South America, including Brazil, as well as other countries such as Tajikistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, Central African Republic and Nigeria have ratified the Rome Statute. That is, the decision practically makes Putin’s participation in the Brics summit, which takes place in August, in South Africa, unfeasible.
In an interview with Brazil in factthe political scientist Vladimir Jarhall, says the sense of the decision taken is largely a pretext, “a simple way to create a certain discomfort for the Russian government”.
“123 countries support the status of the International Criminal Court. Consequently, if we talk about a visit by the President of Russia to one of these countries, for example, there is discussion about a visit to South Africa this year, where there will be a BRICS summit. South Africa recognizes the status (of the court) and, in this case, it remains to be seen how it will react,” he adds.
The other consequence is possible diplomatic strain with countries that validate the ICC. With that, Brazil’s position in relation to the war in Ukraine was once again in evidence. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, said this week that Brazil respects and follows the decisions of the Hague Court and acknowledged that a possible visit by Putin to any country that is part of the ICC could cause “complications”.
“Brazil is part of the TPI, which we respect and follow. The TPI is not integrated by all countries, so it also has a scope that is not total, it is not global. It is limited. We have to, above all, get to know better the conditions. There is no firm or official position on this”, said the minister in an interview with the Metrópoles portal.
On the other hand, the decision of the international court is also presented as a risk for the organization itself, insofar as the non-effectiveness of its actions can harm the credibility of the institution. First, because of the criticism they have received for adopting selective sentences.
Political scientist Vladimir Jarhall points out that the Hague Court’s measure was “exclusively politicized” and triggered the warrant from what is called a “double standards” system, referring to “cases in which the criminal court turned a blind eye to the crimes of other countries”.
Coincidentally, this week marks 20 years of the Iraq war, started by the US under false allegations that the country had weapons of mass destruction, without any punishment for the White House administration, either at the time or later. the transition of government in the country.
Another problem that the international court invariably faces is the absence of major powers recognizing its jurisdiction. This is the case of the US itself, which even imposed punishments and visa embargoes on members of the ICC who opened an investigation to investigate alleged war crimes against US soldiers in Afghanistan. Countries like India, China and Russia are also not part of the court. Ukraine has also not ratified the Rome Statute, but made an exception during the war for the ICC to investigate crimes committed on its territory.
For political scientist Vladimir Jarhall, the ICC decision also creates a scenario of the impossibility of any peace talks between most countries in the West and Russia to stop the Ukraine war, considering that European countries recognize the status of The Hague. Paradoxically, the only country on the western front that would be able to hold negotiations with Moscow would be the USA.
“The rest of the European countries find themselves in a silly situation, because they cannot carry out negotiations with Vladimir Putin, cannot carry out visits to Russia, and, above all, invite him to their territory. As a result, such a decision puts them in a dead end and, consequently, interrupts any possibilities of negotiations with Russia in the long term political plan”, he points out.
Thus, according to the analyst, “we see a situation where there is an attempt to show that Russia is a ‘pariah’ country”.
Xi Jinping as Putin’s International “Guarantor”
One of the main weaknesses of the arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin issued by the Hague Court is the fact that he is an acting head of state and therefore enjoys immunity under international law. This was reinforced by Chinese diplomacy on the eve of Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the court should “maintain an objective and impartial position” and “respect the immunity of heads of state from jurisdiction under international law”. He urged the ICC to avoid “politicization and double standards”.
Although the ICC does not recognize the immunity of heads of state in cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, the international court has the power to only indict presidents.
And it was Chinese leader Xi Jinping himself who made a nod to Putin remaining under the long-term protection of head of state immunity. In an informal statement before the official talks, Xi Jinping recalled that Russia will have presidential elections in 2024 and said he was convinced that Russians would support Putin. Despite the statement, the Russian president himself has yet to officially declare that he will run for his fifth term.
“Under your strong leadership, Russia has made great progress in its prosperous development. I am confident that the Russian people will continue to give you their firm support,” said the Chinese president.
At the end of his visit to Moscow, Xi Jinping bid farewell to Putin with the following words: “We are now seeing transformations that did not happen 100 years ago. And we are the ones who are driving these changes together”. The statement couldn’t be more symbolic. As the West makes a drastic move to further isolate the Russian president, China has emerged as a crucial Kremlin guarantor in the international arena.
Editing: Thales Schmidt
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