The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing his alleged involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian children.
A warrant was also issued Friday for Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, after the ICC declared there are “reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, in prejudice of Ukrainian children.”
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The U.S. is not a member of the ICC and neither assists nor acknowledges the authority of the judicial body.
The ICC wrote that Putin “is allegedly responsible 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.”
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Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova brushed off the arrest warrant, saying, “The decisions of the International Criminal Court have no meaning for our country, including from a legal point of view.”
“Russia is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and does not bear obligations under it,” Zakharova said. “Russia does not cooperate with this body, and possible ‘recipes’ for arrest coming from the International Court of Justice will be legally null and void for us.”
Ukraine’s General Prosecutor Andriy Kostin cheered the decision.
“Now, if Putin leaves Russia, he would be arrested and surrendered to ICC,” Kostin said. “World leaders will think twice before shaking his hand or sitting with Putin at the negotiating table. It’s another clear signal to the world that the Russian regime is criminal.”
While the court was established as an international judicial body with the signing of the Rome Treaty of 1998, the ICC began actual operations in 2002 based in The Hague, Netherlands.
To date, 123 countries have ratified the treaty and approved the authority of the court in international prosecution.
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The court’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of the worst crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It has global jurisdiction and is intended as a last resort when national governments are unable or outright refuse to prosecute.
Last year, the ICC announced it had launched the largest “single field” investigation since its inception 20 years ago into war crimes committed during Russia’s deadly war in Ukraine.
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A team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel has been sent to Ukraine to provide support to authorities investigating war crimes.