Russia’s Vladimir Putin to be arrested? Here’s when an ICC warrant works

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, linking him to war crimes of deporting Ukrainian children – at least hundreds – to other countries. While the move is largely symbolic, it is likely to have some impact on Moscow and its top leader as the war progresses.

Putin is only the third head of state to be indicted by the ICC while still in power – after former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.

Also read: ICC issues arrest warrant for Putin – Will it affect the Ukraine-Russia war?

The ICC – considered the court of last resort – does not adjudicate in the absence of individuals. As such, Putin would have to be handed over by Russia (an unlikely prospect as he leads the country) or arrested outside the country. It should be noted here that many countries including India and the United States are not party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and therefore are under no obligation to arrest the Russian leader.

The president may face obstacles when traveling or strengthening diplomatic relations with other countries. Experts also say the latest development could also weaken Putin at home.

“The Russians can see this as another reason why Putin can’t serve their country anymore,” New York University law professor Ryan Goodman told CNN.

Also read: ICC issues arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin – What are the charges?

However, if his predecessors (other leaders similarly charged by the ICC) are any indication, the order is unlikely to have any short-term impact. While the charges against Gaddafi ended after he was ousted and killed in 2011, Bashir remained in office for another decade following the 2009 indictment of genocide in Darfur.

The latter has also traveled to a host of Arab and African countries – including ICC members – without consequence. The court reprimanded those countries for refusing to detain him or refer them to the United Nations Security Council for non-compliance.

(With input from agencies)

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