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20 Mar, 2023 12:00

Moscow opens criminal case over Putin warrant

Russia’s investigative committee says the ICC's top prosecutor and its judges acted “illegally”
Moscow opens criminal case over Putin warrant

The International Criminal Court's (ICC) principal prosecutor and the judges who issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin have become the targets of a criminal case, Russia’s Investigative Committee announced on Monday.

In a Telegram post, the committee said that it had opened cases against ICC prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan, as well as judges Tomoko Akane, Rosario Salvatore Aitala and Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez.

Khan sent a petition on February 22 to the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to obtain warrants for the arrest of Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, whom he accused of being responsible for the “illegal deportation of children from Ukraine.” His petition was approved by the aforementioned judges.

Russia’s investigative committee has described the ICC prosecutions as “obviously illegal, since there are no grounds for criminal liability.” It also pointed to the 1973 UN Protection of Diplomats Convention which grants heads of state absolute immunity from the jurisdiction of foreign countries.

The committee considers Khan’s actions a crime under Russian law for “knowingly bringing an innocent person to criminal liability, combined with unlawfully accusing a person of committing a grave or especially grave crime.” He is also charged with preparing an attack on a representative of a foreign state "with the intention of complicating international relations."

The three judges are being accused of attacking a foreign state representative as well as attempting a "deliberately unlawful detention."

Russia has disregarded the ICC warrant as having no legal basis, with ex-president Dmitry Medvedev suggesting it was a sign of the collapse of international law. He also described the ICC as “s**tty and wanted by nobody” and said it had a poor record of holding high-profile suspects accountable, explicit pro-Western bias and had failed to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Kremlin has officially reacted calmly to the ICC warrant. Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told RIA Novosti on Monday that there are already plenty of “openly hostile manifestations in relation to both our country and our president” and that taking it all “to heart” would not bring anything good.