Putin tries to intimidate British war crimes judge with arrest warrant

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Karim Khan, the British barrister who spearheads the International Criminal Court, has been placed on a wanted list by Russia – two months after issuing a warrant for the arrest of the Russian President. A statement issued by the ICC yesterday branded the move a bid to undermine what it called its “lawful mandate to ensure accountability for the gravest crimes”.

Russia, which is not member of the court, has previously dismissed the warrant against Mr Putin as “void”.

Mr Khan issued the arrest warrant for President Putin in March, with Putin accused of war crimes, specifically in relation to the unlawful deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

Russia’s child rights commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova is also wanted on similar charges.

In excess of 16,000 children are believed to have been forcibly transferred to Russia from Ukraine since the start of the war on February 24, 2022, Kyiv claims.

Russian state news agency TASS cited data from the ministry’s database reading: “Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, date of birth March 30, 1970, British, is wanted under a Russian Criminal Code article.”

The ICC responded: “The International Criminal Court is aware and profoundly concerned about unwarranted and unjustified coercive measures reportedly taken against ICC officials, notably the Prosecutor of the Court and the judges of Pre-Trial Chamber II by the authorities of the Russian Federation.

“The ICC finds these measures unacceptable.”

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The court would remain “undeterred” in the conduct of its “lawful mandate” to ensure accountability for what it called “the gravest crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”.

It continued: “The ICC stands firmly by its personnel and officials and, in line with the statement issued by the Presidency of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) earlier today, calls on all its States Parties and Rome Statute stakeholders to enhance their efforts to protect the Court, its officials and its personnel, and ensure it is capable to continue to deliver on its independent mandate.”

The ASP earlier voiced its “deep concern” at the situation, adding: “The Presidency of the Assembly regrets these acts of intimidation and unacceptable attempts to undermine the mandate of the International Criminal Court to investigate, sanction and prevent the commission of the gravest international crimes.

“The Presidency of the Assembly stands firmly by the International Criminal Court, its elected officials, and its personnel. Safeguarding the Court’s integrity, including its judicial and prosecutorial independence, is fundamental to the successful discharge of its mandate.

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“We reiterate our full confidence in the ICC as an independent and impartial court of law.”

Russia last month adopted legislation which effectively criminalises assistance to foreign and international bodies “to which Russia is not a party”, including the ICC.

Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said: : “The new law is apparently aimed at further undermining international efforts to secure accountability for crimes committed by Russian nationals, including in Ukraine.

“The law in Russia is a new toxic addition to the growing array of draconian criminal legislation adopted in recent years in the name of ‘state security’.”

He continued: “The adoption of this disturbing law is another move by Russian authorities to systematically stifle any effort to seek justice and deter scrutiny of Russia’s conduct abroad.

“The international community should publicly make clear that they will remain undaunted in their support for judicial bodies like ICC and will not tolerate Russia’s attempted obstruction of their crucial work.”

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