Editorial of the “World”. For Joe Biden, President of the United States, Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal”. Two weeks before him, on March 2, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson found the Russian president guilty of “war crimes” in Ukraine, a sovereign state invaded by the Russian army on February 24. These are serious accusations, but purely political in scope. As testimonies of deliberate abuses against civilians grow in Ukraine, it is now up to international justice to do its job. It is essential that it be able to give this attack and its consequences on the population the judicial treatment they deserve.
In what form ? The most appropriate jurisdiction is, of course, the International Criminal Court (ICC). Forty countries, including France, have asked him to take up this file. In 2016, Russia withdrew its signature from the treaty creating the ICC, which it had signed in 2000, but its nationals subject to an arrest warrant can be arrested anywhere.
On March 2, the ICC prosecutor, the British Karim Khan, opened an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes that may have been committed in Ukraine since November 21, 2013 – specific request made by Kyiv .
The work of collecting evidence has therefore begun. The prosecutor traveled to Ukraine on March 16. There he met the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Iryna Venediktova, whose office has been collecting evidence since day one. The ICC can prosecute all perpetrators of war crimes, including Vladimir Putin, since it does not recognize the immunity granted to heads of state by national courts.
Prosecutor Khan is also investigating crimes that could be committed on the Ukrainian side (against prisoners, for example) and has sent a request to Russia asking for its cooperation.
The ICC could thus issue in a few months arrest warrants against Russian officers in Ukraine, that kyiv, if they were taken prisoner, could choose to transfer to The Hague. These arrest warrants often include a section on the history of the crimes of which the suspects are accused: their hierarchical superior is none other than Vladimir Putin, whose responsibility, at least in the decision to start the war, could be cited . Nothing, legally, will prevent the prosecutor from issuing a warrant against President Putin if the evidence is gathered.
So that Russian officials do not sleep in peace
Ukraine also seized, on February 27, the International Court of Justice as well as the European Court of Human Rights. The jurist Philippe Sands and the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown are asking for the creation of a special tribunal to examine the crime of aggression committed by Russia, an accusation which is not in doubt here but which cannot be seize the ICC, since the two States concerned, Russia and Ukraine, have not ratified its statute.
All these initiatives are welcome, as it is important that Vladimir Putin’s war does not go unpunished. In any case, we must support the work of the Ukrainian justice system and that of the ICC, so that the prospect of arrest warrants can make some Russian officials, civilians and military, think twice. So that they never sleep in peace, they must be reminded of the fate, among others, of the Serbian leaders Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, who ended up being dragged before the judges in The Hague.
Also listen War crimes in Ukraine: the hunt for evidence