March 18, 2023

Fugitive No. 1


Fugitive No. 1
Pre-indicted Putin at a press conference in Serbia, 2019. | Dreamstime.com

On March 17 (which, as it happens, is the international day designated to honor a Catholic Saint who, hagiographic legend has it, drove out all the vermin from his country), the International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.

The charge against Putin, and against Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, is for "the war crime of unlawful deportation of population (children) and that of unlawful transfer of population (children) from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (under articles 8(2)(a)(vii) and 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute)."

Various commentators have called the charge something like the first low-hanging, slam-dunk fruit of the many war crimes for which Putin and his retinue will eventually be charged.

The immediate implication for Putin is that it puts a serious crimp in his traveling life. Some 63 percent of the world's countries are now no-go zones for the Russian president, as there are 123 signatories to the International Criminal Court among the world's 195 nations, and all are ostensibly obligated to extradite ICC criminals to the Hague, should they land on their soil.

What is more, as CNN summarized it, "Without careful planning, Putin could touch down in a country apparently unaligned with the ICC and not beholden to the international law requirements that he be handed over to the Hague, yet for unseen international political pressure, or their own new-found desire for international justice, trigger a legal process to get him to the Hague."

ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan made it clear in this rare case of indicting a sitting head of state that no one is off limits, and that “definitely nobody should feel they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity or war crimes with impunity.”

No matter how the future holds, this much we know for certain: from this point forward Vladimir Putin will always bear the moniker "indicted war criminal" as part of his journalistic introduction.

 

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