Preposterous for Russia to ‘Retaliate’ by Putting Court Official on Wanted List

Russia likely intends to take retaliatory measures against the International Criminal Court (ICC) for charging Russian President Vladimir Putin with war crimes. It is utterly preposterous for Moscow to ignore its own terrible acts and treat an international organization as an enemy.

The Russian authorities have put ICC judge Tomoko Akane on a wanted list, on the grounds that she violated that country’s penal code.

In March this year, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and another Russian individual on suspicion of committing war crimes, alleging that Kremlin authorities forcibly transferred many children from various parts of Ukraine to Russia. Akane was among the ICC judges who made this decision.

Russia had already named the ICC’s chief prosecutor who requested the arrest warrants and a judge as persons wanted in the investigation. Akane is the third person to be put on the list.

Akane and the others will not be detained unless they enter Russia. The application of domestic laws is generally limited, in principle, to the territory of the country of origin.

It is absurd for Russia to put a prosecutor and judges of the ICC, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, on a wanted list over violations of its own penal code.

It is entirely natural that the ICC condemned Russia’s acts as “attempts to undermine the [international] mandate of the ICC.”

The ICC is an international organization that pursues war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the past, it has tried cases involving the mobilization of children for combat in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo and punished individuals who were charged.

A total of 123 countries and regions, including Japan, the United Kingdom and France, belong to the ICC, but the United States, China and Russia are not members of the court. Even though Russia is not an affiliate, it is outrageous that it would try to undermine the ICC.

Russia has adopted such a confrontational stance because the ICC arrest warrant has restricted Putin’s activities outside Russia and damaged his authority.

South Africa plans to host summit talks of BRICS emerging economies later this month, and is inviting the leaders of China, Russia, India and Brazil. However, it has been decided that Putin will only attend online, because South Africa reportedly asked him not to appear in person.

If Putin enters an ICC member state, that country is obligated to detain him. As a member nation, South Africa probably did not want to invite problems over how to deal with Putin.

In addition to the forcible transfer of children, Russia has committed many other war crimes, including the massacre of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and the destruction of hospitals and schools through indiscriminate attacks.

The ICC should not give in to Russian intimidation and must continue to gather evidence to ascertain the truth and hold the guilty parties responsible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2023)