Step Toward Holding Russian President Accountable for War Crimes

It is highly significant that an international organization that tries war crimes has launched procedures to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable. The international community should recognize the weight of this move and increase pressure on Russia to stop its barbaric acts.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued arrest warrants for Putin and another individual on suspicion of committing war crimes over the transportation of children from areas of Ukraine invaded and occupied by Russia to their own country.

Russia said a presidential decree issued by Putin is a measure intended to simplify procedures for children taken from Ukraine to be adopted and granted Russian citizenship, but it is nothing more than a de facto “Russification.”

The forced transfer of civilians constitutes an act of war crimes as defined by the ICC.

The ICC took the unusual step of issuing an arrest warrant for a serving head of state and publicly announcing the move. Presumably, it has gathered clear evidence and felt the need to put a stop to the ongoing crimes.

The number of children taken by Russia has exceeded 16,000. The Russians claim they are transporting orphans and other children to safety for their protection, but their excuses are merely a cover-up of crimes.

Russia launched the invasion and is calling the removal of the children “protection.” The world must not tolerate lie after lie.

Russia must immediately stop the removal of children and return to Ukraine the ones that have been taken.

Russia is not a member of the ICC, and it is unlikely that Putin will be taken into custody. Meanwhile, the 123 countries and regions that are members of the ICC, including Japan, the United Kingdom and France, will be obligated to detain him.

As an effectively “internationally wanted person,” Putin will be forced to avoid visiting ICC member countries and regions. A loss of international prestige is inevitable.

The immediate focus of attention will be how Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is scheduled to meet with Putin in Moscow, will deal with Putin during his visit. If Xi does not call on Putin to stop the war crimes and instead affirms Chinese-Russian coordination and collaboration, it would be tantamount to China’s complicity in Russia’s crimes. Xi’s judgment is also being questioned.

Emerging and developing countries that are reluctant to condemn Russia’s aggression or to join sanctions against the country also need to recognize the position that Putin is in and reassess their relations with Moscow.

Indiscriminate attacks by Russia on hospitals and power plants throughout Ukraine, as well as the massacre and torture of civilians uncovered in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and elsewhere, are also serious war crimes. The ICC must investigate what actually happened and pursue accountability for the outrageous acts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 21, 2023)