Russian President Vladimir Putin should be arrested if he enters a country that has agreed to execute warrants issued by the International Criminal Court, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I think that anyone who is a party to the court and has obligations should fulfill their obligations,” Blinken said Wednesday during a Senate hearing.
ICC prosecutors indicted Putin “for the war crime of unlawful deportation of” Ukrainian children into Russia, one day after a commission of U.N. investigators concluded that Russia’s treatment of those children amounts to a war crime. It is a stinging rebuke from a tribunal that enjoys wide support among the developing nations where Russia has sought diplomatic shelter from the storm of Western-backed censures at the United Nations.
“I would encourage you that if he came here, we should turn him over,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Blinken during an appropriations hearing.
Blinken refused to “engage in that hypothetical” and reminded Graham that the United States has not signed the treaty that established the ICC. “I don’t think [Putin] has any plans to travel here soon,” he demurred.
The ICC has the backing of 123 countries. The signatories include Western European heavyweights such as France and the United Kingdom, but it finds the widest acceptance in Africa, where 33 countries — including South Africa, which conducted joint naval drills with Russia and China last month — have embraced the Rome Statute that established the court.
“The powers to execute the ICC’s arrest warrants are vested in States,” as ICC documents explain. “States Parties to the Rome Statute have an obligation to cooperate fully with the ICC … and to ensure that there are procedures available under their national law to execute all cooperation requests from the Court” under the Rome Statute.
Russia likewise has not signed the Rome Statute, as the Kremlin noted in declaring the warrant “null and void,” but Ukraine is a party to it.
“According to the ICC statute, which has 123 state parties, two-thirds of the whole international community, the court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in the territory of a state party or a state which has accepted its jurisdiction,” ICC President Piotr Hofmanski said last week. “Ukraine has accepted the ICC twice — in 2014 and then in 2015.”
The censure has outraged Putin’s associates, leading Russian officials to open their own criminal case against the ICC officials involved in the warrant. “The criminal prosecution is obviously illegal, since there are no grounds for criminal liability,” the Russian state Investigative Committee said Monday.