Russia’s Putin Threatens to Arrest ICC Chief Prosecutor, Judges

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Russia’s Investigative Committee said on Monday that “it has opened a criminal case against the prosecutor and judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

The Investigative Committee of the Russia’s Federation, which is the highest federal investigating authority in Russia and operates as Russia’s anti-corruption agency, stressed they will move to prosecute the ICC officials.

The decision by the Russia’s Investigative Committee to arrest and prosecute the Chief Prosecutor and judges of the International Criminal Court is similar to what the US did in 2018 when the ICC tried to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan.

On March 17, 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes and crimes of aggression against Ukraine.

Russia authorities have maintained that the ICC has no mandate to arrest and prosecute President Vladimir Putin since Russia is not a party to the Rome statute that established the ICC and therefore doesn’t recognize the existence and jurisdiction of the institution over its territory and citizens.

The Kremlin, the Russia State House, has since rubbished arrest warrant claims, saying they don’t recognize the court.

Dmitry Peskov, the Russia Presidential Press Secretary, said they don’t recognize the ICC and that it’s an illegal law tool full of selective prosecutions and making decisions on the orders of external actors.

He adds that for decades now, the US has committed atrocities of aggression against weaker states, including Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan, unspeakable war crimes, and crimes against humanity, but none has ever been issued arrest warrants, summoned, or prosecuted by the ICC.

In 2002, the US signed the “Hague Invasion Act” into law, which prohibits the court from arresting, charging, and prosecuting any US or US-allied official with war crimes at the ICC. The law also gives the US permission to use military force to free them.

Russia is among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, along with the USA, China, Great Britain, and France. The ICC is an independent body but relies on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to implement its decisions. Three of the five permanent members of the UNSC, including Russia, the USA, and China, are not parties to the Rome Statute that establishes the ICC, and this has largely affected the decision-making of the institution.

According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, no country can be bound by the provisions of a treaty it has not signed. Now, is the ICC setting a new international law precedent by modifying the existing norms and principles?

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon of September 11, 2001, and the so-called war on terror, the Bill Clinton and later George W. Bush administrations established Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, where suspected terrorists, most of whom were Muslims, were detained.

At Guantanamo, over 500 detainees were held incommunicado and subjected to grave torture and inhumane and degrading treatment without a trial in a court of law. After two decades and as the international community continues to mount pressure on the US government to close the facility, Guantanamo Bay is still operational, with about 31 Muslim detainees denied access to justice.

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